Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Tsunami Relief Efforts 


I have spent the past couple of days pretty much paralysed in front of the TV and the computer not knowing what to do that could be remotely constructive. However, from my minimal experience of helping to raise some money during the Gujarat earthquake, I realised lots of people who wanted to help somehow did not know how to go about it. This post is an attempt to link probable donors with oppurtunities to donate time, money etc.

First, let's be real about what just happened. The Red Cross estimates that over 120,000 people are now feared dead and that number is likely to be revised upwards as reports come in from the remoter parts of the Andaman islands and Indonesia. This is going to take an incredible international relief effort to even remotely rebuild the lives that have been destroyed, and I think all of us have a responsibility as human beings to do the best we can. All it would take for most of us is to forgo a meal at a restaurant or not pay obscene cover charges at some New Year's eve party.....might not be a big deal for us, but it would make a huge difference in the affected areas. So, I beg you to give and give generously and give generously again.

Before I list out the charities, let me first list a couple of places that attempt to find information about missing people. These web efforts are known to work.

Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree Tsunami Thread -- you don't need to register to post or respond. UPDATE: LP has shifted Found Persons here to make more room for missing persons on the earlier thread.

Tsunami Disaster Forum

CNN E-Mail Appeals

Asian Quake Disaster is running a very useful thread that helps with information on missing people. They also have a list of emergency contact details.

As Mash has already posted, the best one-stop site for all tsunami related information is tsunamihelp.blogspot.com -- I cannot begin to emphasise how good this blog is. Suhit, Dina etc, you guys are doing an amazing job with the blog.

The best place to get some comprehensive information on the current tsunami along with a comprehensive set of links is the Wikipedia earthquake and Tsunami page. Columbia University has the scientific information on the Tsunami. Finally, Wave of Destruction has the most comprehensive photo/video evidence of the destruction.

List of places you can donate to --

I did think of collecting some money via ZS but have rested the idea temporarily unless someone can provide me with logistical support. The bottom line with donations is to find an agency with low overheads and where you can get a tax deduction. Of course, if you can get matching grants, that's even better. While this list is by no means exhaustive, I have listed every single prominent site on here. In addition, most of the organisations I have listed on here accept online donations which makes giving a lot easier. I have also avoided explicitly religious organisations on here since their agenda is suspect.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent allows you to specifically mark your contribution for 'tsunami and earthquake relief' if need be. You can also contribute to the Red Cross via Amazon which has already raised over $6 million since its appeal went up. Music for Relief is also raising money for the Red Cross. As is Yahoo.

You can also contribute to local chapters of the Red Cross -- India,Thailand, Indonesia, Britain, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, China, Holland, Ireland, Norway, Spain, Brazil, Denmark,Sweden, Finland, Russia etc. Needless to say, there are plenty of countries not listed on here. This is just a small sample of countries from where I have noticed Zoo Station readers.

The incredible Medecins Sans Frontieres lets you pay in USD, Sterling or Euros. You could also donate to MSF here. In addition, MSF also provides oppurtunities to volunteer, though you need to contact their offices to find out more.

CARE is an organization that was on the ground in most of the countries struck by the Tsunami and is therefore logistically well suited to help.

Direct Relief International has been helping with health related issues in the disaster struck region about which you can read more.

The World Food Programme, the world's largest humanitarian organisation allows you to make tax-free donations as part of its Tsunami Disaster Appeal.

ASHA for Education, the well known Indian charity that does remarkable work in promoting children's education in India is collecting donations. Several Zoo Station readers and at least one ZS blogger (Anand) are actively involved with ASHA and will vouch for the organization.

Though I am skeptical of handing any money over to the mangy Indian bureaucrat, the Prime Minister's Relief Fund is accepting online donations and is a place many of you might consider. Apparently, Anil Ambani trusts the Fund enough to personally contribute over $200,000. Gopal suggests that you could also contribute to the PM's relief fund via Citibank.

The Tamil Nadu government has set up the Chief Minister's Relief Fund. The problem of the Indian bureaucrat remains.

In light of the fact that over one-third of the victims of the disaster are little children, UNICEF is accepting donations. So is Save the Children. So is Vibha. Meanwhile, PLAN USA has already raised $1.5 million towards helping affected children, but will need a great deal more. Child Relief and you (CRY), the well known Indian children's charity has launched a Tsunami Relief Fund.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has launched an appeal even as they launch operations in Aceh, southern Sri Lanka, Thailand and also in East Africa, which has been hit pretty badly too.

SEEDS is a voluntary organisation in India that has launched relief operations in the hard-hit Andaman and Nicobar Islands where I suspect we will see a substantial increase in the death toll once rescue teams do a proper assessment.

The America India Foundation, set up in the wake of the Gujarat quake with Bill Clinton as honorary chair, has set up the Tsunami Relief Fund with the stated goal of raising at least $2 million in the next 90 days. AIF plans on matching dollar for dollar the first $1 million received in contributions. UPDATE: Just got an update from AIF. They have raised $120,000 in the first week, meaning there's another $880,000 to go. AIF promises that 100% of your money will be used for Tsunami relief.

Habitat for Humanity, an organisation known for its rebuilding efforts will be involed in rebuidling homes in the affected areas. They estimate that for between $50 and $150, a house can be made habitable again, depending on damage. Needless to say, they'll need a great deal more to rebuild from scratch as seems to be the case in a lot of southern Sri Lanka.

The Hindu, South India's leading English newspaper has launched the Hindu Relief Fund. Given that they're based in Madras, they are probably well suited to help people severely affected in Tamil Nadu. The Times of India too has launched an appeal, though they're not online yet.

The Association for India's Development (AID) has also set up a rehabilitation fund for families in Southern India. Sulekha.com has set up a matching fund with AID with donations from its members and corporate clients/partners worldwide. The matching fund has currently raised a little over $110,000.

AmeriCares is a disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization providing immediate response to emergency medical needs.

Sarvodaya, the largest civil society organisation in Sri Lanka with a large presence on the ground is trying to collect food and medical supplies. UPDATE: Indi is right. I have heard from several people now that Sarvodaya is doing excellent work on the ground in Sri Lanka. Folks looking to contribute to the Sri Lanka relief effort (and I hope that includes a LOT of you), please have a good look at the Sarvodaya website.

*NEW* Seva International, the charity known for its work in eye care has also set up a fund to help with relief efforts in Sri Lanka and India. In Sri Lanka, they are working with IMPACT Sri Lanka to set up health camps while in India, they are working with the Aravind Hospital system and is focussing on relief efforts in Cuddalore district.

*NEW* SOS Children's Villages is an organisation that I forgot to add on here initially. They were on the ground in both India and Sri Lanka before the Tsunami hit and are logistically well prepared. For whatever its worth, this is an organisation people in my family have worked with in the past and have an excellent opinion of. UPDATE: My mum informs me that SOS has plans of adopting as many children orphaned by the disaster as their resources will permit. So, once again, please have a look at how SOS adopts children and provides them with the closest thing resembling a real family in both Sri Lanka and India.

*NEW*: Some of you know that I did my dissertation research among the coastal fishing communities of southern India -- precisely the communities that have been utterly devastated by the Tsunami. During the course of my research, I had the opportunity to meet with officers from SIFFS, the South Indian Fishermen's Federation. According to an e-mail that I received, SIFFS constituents have been very badly hit and SIFFS is now looking to raise funds rehabilitate and rebuild within these communities and especially to restore destroyed fishing equipment so these fishermen can get their livelihoods back in the long term. I have nothing but the highest regard for this organisation and if any of you are looking to make a contribution that will have an immediate impact on the ground in south India, I would urge you have a look at SIFFS. The details on their fundraising are outlined here. UPDATE: SIFFS now has a dedicated page for its relief efforts.

*NEW* Give2Asia, a U.S. non-profit established by the Asia Foundation has started the Tsunami Recovery Fund. With offices in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India, the fund aims to help with mid to long-term reconstruction efforts.

*NEW* The UN Foundation has set up the UN Foundation Tsunami Relief Fund which lets you make tax-deductible contributions to the UN's relief efforts in the region.

*NEW* The well known Helen Keller International has joined in on the relief efforts, focussing on assisting people in Indonesia. HKI is distributing vitamin A, iodized oil and dispersible zinc tablets, which constitutes one of the most cost-effective ways to save lives and prevent disease in disaster situations, to children under five years of age. HKI is also distributing a monthly supply of multivitamins suitable for cooking or non-cooking conditions to enhance health. You can find more information and donate here.

Oxfam lets UK taxpayers increase their gift by 28% under the Gift Aid scheme. UK residents can also contribute directly to the Tsunami Earthquake Appeal. Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) offers UK tax payers the same deal as Oxfam.

International Medical Corps is on the ground in Aceh. Donate here. The International Rescue Committee is also on the ground in the Aceh province. In fact, their offices in Aceh are said to have been devastated and two of their aid workers are missing.

Give World has set up a tax-deductible Rehabilitation Fund to support initiatives to help those affected by the disaster in South India, in association with GiveIndia and ICICI Communities (with the largest private bank in India). You can also check how they managed the money they raised during the Gujarat Quake.

Swiss Solidarity, the Swiss NGO which supports emergency programs for people suffering from the consequences of natural disasters has already raised 11 million CHF as part of its relief efforts, of which 7 million came in yesterday. They are working with 10 partner organisations including Caritas Sri Lanka and MSF.

Jiva Institute, the pioneering organisation founded by my friend Steve Rudolph, has launched the Jiva Relief Fund. They have created low-cost Health Packs for tsunami survivors. The packs will prevent and cure diseases like cholera, typhoid, dysentery, diarrhea, and gastroenteritis. Each pack costs USD$10 and provides a week’s medicines for one person.

Project Concern is targeting its efforts in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu.

Project Hope is on the ground in Thailand and working on prviding health care and supplies.

Operation USA is a privately funded organisation with extremely low overheads with administrative costs running at a mere 2%.

Northwest Medical Teams have already dispatched doctors and medical professionals to Thailand.

Relief International provides emergency, rehabilitation and development services.

Action Against Hunger tells you exactly how your contribution will be used and also provides the option of matching funds from your employer.

World Emergency Relief is donating food and blankets and will focus on Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Catholic Relief Services plans to raise $25 million for humanitarian services.

Mercy Corps is collecting money for emergency disaster relief.

American Friends Service Committee -- all contributions are tax deductible.

International Relief Teams (IRT) has made a commitment to send a substantial shipment of medicines – enough to sustain 20,000 people for 3 months.

Tsunami Victims provides an exhaustive list of donating and volunteering opportunities in India.

Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation of Sri Lanka has put out an appeal for donations. So has Lanka Page.

The Sri Lanka Academic Network are also collecting online donations. Here's how they use your money.

The Sri Lankan govt has details on the sort of assistance they need immediately.

Akanksha, an organisaton I knew well during my college days in Bombay is collecting clothes, tarpaulin, bed sheets, utensils, dry ration, candles, match box, torch & batteries, water purifier tablets, medicines etc at collection centers in Bombay.

Muslim Hands is sending emergency response teams to Malaysia and Indonesia.

KARUNA Trust of Sri Lanka is collecting money towards relief efforts.

NETAID has set up an Asian Earthquake Crisis Fund.

Architecture for Humanity is another organisation that will be involved in rebuilding efforts. You can read more about their reconstruction efforts here.

GOAL, the Irish humanitarian organisation has set up a major feeding operation in Tamil Nadu and wants to expand to Sri Lanka.

Switzerland based Medair is sending emergency medical kits and water drilling equipment to Sri Lanka.

In Singapore, you can make contributions via SMS using the Singtel Donation Hotline.

The UK-based Hindu Forum is collecting money, clothes and medicines.

Lutheran World Relief

International Orthodox Christian Charities.

Islamic Relief.

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

World Concern.

International Relief and Development Foundation.

Adventist Development and Relief Agency International.

B'nai B'rith Disaster Relief Fund.

Tear Fund New Zealand.

BAPS Care.

The Ramakrishna Math.

Most places are currently seeking cash contributions though I am sure volunteers will be needed soon (Indiserve would be a good place to look), especially medical professionals and individuals who have experience getting the infrastructure back in order. Until the call for non-local volunteers is made by the specialists, let us make sure there is enough money to fund whatever relief effort is necessary. I will post whatever information I come across on here.

Some people have asked me what a good contribution would be. The simple answer would be that no amount is enough for a disaster of this magnitude. That said, you could use some simple parameters. For example, you can donate the amount of one dinner foregone or of one night out on town avoided and spent reading a book instead. Better still, you could donate a couple of hour's pay or even a day's pay. Those who can afford it should donate a great deal more. Trust me, it doesn't take much to put this in perspective.

I have no intention of asking any of you to donate to any one set of organisations, but since many of you asked, here are the criteria I would use. As I have mentioned earlier, it would be good to contribute to someone who has low overheads. In addition, they must also have the logistical capabilities to deliver aid, have the ability to coordinate with other relief agencies and have been around for long enough to be credible and know hard this is going to be. You could also search the database on Charity Navigator to see how efficiently your funds will be used.

On a personal note, we have donated money to MSF and Save the Children though we plan on donating some more money in the coming week. Please do not let our opinion bias your choice though. You must donate to what you think is most appropriate. That said, if you know of someone personally who is doing good work on the ground, I would certainly urge you to help fund them over everything else and let us know at ZS in case we haven't linked to them already.

PS: I urge Indian readers of ZS to contribute not just to Indian aid agencies, but also to aid agencies based in other countries. In some ways the Indian (and the Thai) economy can probably cope with this disaster, but Sri Lanka and Indonesia will need every ounce of help they can get.

PPS: Please send these links along to as many people as you know. In addition, if you know of any links that have been missed here, please let me know and I'll add.

UPDATE: Tsunami Help has a call for volunteers here if you happen to be anywhere near Madras. They also have a specific set of contacts to help Aceh, where the toll is really going to be mind-numbing.

UPDATE: Mercy Corps has an excellent website that lets you find whether your company will match your charitable contribution. For example, a search for Microsoft tells you that MS will match your donation 1:1 to a maximum match of $12,000.

UPDATE: Via Tsunami Help, I found Kapruka, where you can directly purchase products like Paracetamol, Ciproflaxacin, Aspirin etc which will directly be delivered to the Red Cross in Colombo. What's more, the medicines are bought in local Colombo pharmacies, so you are paying local rates, not much higher western prices. Seems like a great site for those among you who are concerned about how your money is put to work.

UPDATE: (Via Subhashish) ICICI Bank, India's most prominent private bank has announced a new initiative to help with relief efforts. ICICI Bank is doing the following : First, demand drafts to any NGO for Tsunami relief work will not be charged. Also, they are ready to provide, at par facilities, for specific cheques for the NGOs involved in the relief activity. Anyone who wants to avail of this facility write to surabhi.gupta@icicibank.com.

UPDATE: In Bangalore, these folks are collecting stuff (no cash).

Prakruti Mudrana
Contact Person - Sashi Kumar/ Uvaraj
Phone: +91-80-26713894/ +91-93412 12691 / +91-94483 71389

If anyone is interested to do rescue work for affected people in Madras please contact Shihan Hussaini +91-98411-618386. You could help with old clothes,water bottles, blankets, food packets. People willing to do rescue work in Nagapattinam there please contact the following numbers - +91-4635 242 999 and 4635 248 777

UPDATE: The South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) has put up an extensive list of tsunami-related resources. In particular, this site will be very useful for anyone in the media looking to cover the situation in South and South East Asia.

UPDATE: MSF is looking for volunteers with medical experience in Indonesia. Here's who you need to contact --

Medecins Sans Frontieres Belgium (MSF B) - Indonesia
Jln. Kemang Utara No. 32
Tel. + 62 - 21 - 719 5947
Fax. + 62 - 21 - 719 5948
E-mail : msfb-jakarta@msf.be

UPDATE: ACEH IT-Media Center has set up a comprehensive site to help with relief efforts in Aceh. It includes a missing persons billboard, list of needs and links to Indonesian media. Folks, we need as much information as possible about Indonesia since its woefully under-represented here. If you have information on aid agencies working in Indonesia, please sent it along.

UPDATE: AID is collecting a list of volunteers who want to work in India. Australian Volunteers is looking for just that.

UPDATE: I forgot to add yesterday that you can also help by donating your unused air miles. Tsunami Help has the details. For example, Continental accepts miles for the Red Cross and AmeriCares, Delta accepts miles for CARE, Northwest for Oxfam and UNICEF besides the ones mentioned above and so on. Have a look.

UPDATE: The folks at Tsunami Help have now launched the Tsunami Help Wiki, which categorises information much better than the blog does. You can drill further into the categories listed on the right navigation bar. Their hosting and bandwidth needs have been met by Wikinews, so I am taking down the bandwidth appeal for now. On an unrelated note, the US govt has upped its aid for the affected areas ten fold to $350 million with promises of more aid. Kudos to the Bush administration for announcing this increase even if all of us know a great deal more will be needed. UPDATE: Japan has upped its aid to $500 million, making it the single largest donor so far.

UPDATE: Folks, if you find an organisation on here that you like but cannot find on the Charity Navigator database, you might want to consider submitting the organisation for evaluation.

UPDATE: Feroze Jamal has a pretty exhaustive list of ways you can help on the ground in India. This is a good place for those looking to volunteer in India to pick up some ideas.

UPDATE: Kauai Aerospace Institute is willing to donate helicopters to aid agencies involved in the relief effort. The Bell 206 Jet Ranger features dual VHF communication and navigation radios and 5 place intercom for relief/search/rescue and utility equipment for delivery of supplies, reconstruction efforts and repairs.

*UPDATE*: The Wise Giving Alliance has an excellent watch-list for donors. I would urge every one of you to go through it begore deciding which organisation to donate to. Highly, highly recommended.

UPDATE: Indonesia Help is a new blog that's trying to help the disaster victims in Aceh. I can only hope these guys can swing more resources Aceh-wards. The bloggers among ZS readers should consider linking to this site to give it as much visibility as possible.

UPDATE: The Sri Lanka Medical Association of North America is accepting donations to buy water purification tablets and medicines. Besides the paypal system, they have also organised several collection points in the New York and New Jersey region with details on what they're looking to collect.

*UPDATE*: An urgent appeal for aid from Indonesia. Please see if any of you can help. It seems to indicate that there were parts of Indonesia (the islands off the coast of Aceh close to the epicentre) which were much harder hit than anything we have seen or heard in the media.

UPDATE: Organisations looking for volunteers in all of the affected areas should go to Tsunami Help Offered.

UPDATE: The Daily Record is reporting that a massive Live Aid style concert is being organised in the third week of January to be held at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. It appears the concert will be headlined by U2, Coldplay and Robbie Williams. In addition, a charity single is also being planned by Cliff Richard and Boy George. This is yet another channel for those of you in the UK and Europe to donate money.

UPDATE: MSF has apparently made a most surprising announcement -- that donors stop sending money, saying MSF had collected enough money for its Tsunami relief effort for now. Mind you, this holds true ONLY for the MSF. The other agencies are in desparate need for donations to fund relief efforts. As someone from the UNICEF said, the MSF tends to concentrate on emergency relief work while others like the UNICEF stay on longer for the rebuilding effort. So, this is merely a FYI to those of you considering donating money to MSF. You may want to donate money elsewhere for the time being.

UPDATE: Propoor.org, the South Asian organisation working on sustainable development initiatives has launched a Tsunami blog which attempts to match volunteers, resources and ideas with opportunities. For those of you looking to volunteer, this might be an excellent place to start.

*UPDATE*: The Times Foundation (set up by the Times of India group) has set up a Tsunami Relief Fund. In addition to soliciting donations for immediate relief and rehabilitation, the Foundation also provides concrete information on volunteering opportunities in India with contact persons and so on. Once again, a great place for volunteers to have a look.

UPDATE: Sara makes a valid point in the comments section. Those of you making donations to the big international aid agencies should consider giving them carte blanche on where and how they can use the money. I really worry that this tremendous outpouring of support may completely displace huge problems like the crisis in Darfur, AIDS etc off people's radars. If you'd like to read more on this, please read this column by Nick Kristof where he touches on the problem. UPDATE: Timothy Garton Ash too touches on some of these issues in the Guardian.

UPDATE: A note of caution -- According to the FBI, several donors (especially those using Internet Explorer) are liable to be open to cyber attacks involving Trojans, 419's and so on. The best way to avoid this is to donate only to reliable organisations (leave those bleeding-heart stories you get in your inbox alone) and by using any browser but Internet Explorer (Firefox, Opera, Safari etc) while making secure online donations.

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: The U.S. Congress has passed a resolution to extend the last date for claiming tax deductions for charitable contributions from Dec 31 2004 to Jan 31 2005 providing an additional incentive for the Americans among you to donate. To claim the exemption, you need to donate to registered tax-exempt organisations. In passing the resolution, members of Congress asked the American public to donate generously to help Tsunami victims.

*NEW* Rough Guide, of travel guide fame, has launched the Rough Guides Tsunami Appeal Fund. All donations made through the Rough Guide before Jan 31, 2004 will be matched by the Pearson Group (effectively doubling your contribution) which owns the Rough Guide. All donations made this way will be sent to CARE International.

*NEW* The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched an urgent appeal to raise $66 million to address the public health needs in the badly stricken areas over the next six months. The WHO also has details on how exactly your money will be used.

UPDATE: Smart Travel Asia has an update for probable travellers about the situation on the ground in all the Tsunami hit areas. Vijay Verghese, the editor of STA lists a bunch of reasons why you will be contributing to the rebuilding of the hard-hit local economies and doing the region a favour by not cancelling your travel plans.