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Actions to Avoid

Do not go to the disaster area

Unless you have specialist skills required to assist in humanitarian operations, travelling to a disaster affected area may do more harm than good. It is not recommended that people travel to a disaster area as there is a high chance that in addition to using up crucial resources that are required by trained aid workers, family members or life-saving relief. These resources include travel, accommodation, food and water. You might not be able to get insurance to cover your travel to disaster areas, and your presence could put more pressure on already stretched resources.

Do not collect and send goods

A common response to disasters overseas is to organise collections of donated goods that are thought to be urgently needed. Receiving goods that are not needed or are inappropriate for recipients can be a hindrance for humanitarian operations.

Please avoid donating goods that haven’t specifically been requested by a humanitarian agency, as these items can clog up airports and docks and prevent essential, life-saving supplies from reaching people in the disaster-affected area.

If food, clothing and medical supplies are needed, NGOs and other agencies are geared up to provide bulk supplies quickly, without the need for sorting, packing, finding transportation costs or seeking permits. A cash donation to an appeal helps them to buy whatever is needed most.

Why should I send cash rather than goods?

Using cash donations, aid agencies are able to utilise existing markets to source culturally appropriate food and clothing, access safe supplies of medicine and work on the ground with communities to provide water, sanitation and other immediate needs.

Cash donations are preferable to gifts in kind for the following reasons:

1. Cost: The costs associated with transport, storage and distribution of gifts in kind often outweigh the benefit of the goods provided and often transport of goods arrive too late to meet immediate needs.

2. Culture: It is important that goods provided are culturally appropriate for affected communities. Although well-intended, sending pairs of jeans or ski masks to impacted areas in tropical or arid climates are of no use to those communities in need. Cash donations allow aid workers to ensure that goods are culturally, dietary and environmentally appropriate.

3. Economy: Gifts in kind may distort local economies, which often struggle to recover after a crisis. Donated goods often force down the price of locally produced items thus distorting the local market. Sourcing goods locally can stimulate local economies and provide for immediate needs following a crisis.

4. Relevance: Donations such as machinery or medical equipment may not be useful to the intended recipients if they lack the skills and knowledge required to operate and maintain the equipment. Thought also must be given to the recipient country's import regulations, as goods that do not comply may cause lengthy customs delays and can lead to additional costs for aid agencies.


Data sourced from Australian Council for International Development


Video by Volunteer Florida.