Philippines desperate for disaster relief; money best now

November 13, 2013 

The catastrophic destruction and loss of life in the Philippines from Typhoon Haiyan continues to grab the world's attention as news coverage exposes more and more of the horrific impacts. The humanitarian disaster will require a protracted relief effort since entire cities lost everything in the storm surge and fierce winds from one of the most powerful typhoons in recorded history.

The human toll is beyond belief, with some 10,000 feared dead and more than 600,000 people displaced. With desperation high from the lack of clean water and food, looting has broken out.

The United States is rushing a flotilla of Navy ships led by an aircraft carrier to the islands, rightly establishing this country as a leader in relief efforts. The humanitarian assistance, supplies and medical care are urgently needed.

The U.S. military already stationed a Marine contingent in Tacloban, a city of 220,000 described by a general as losing "every single building, every single home." The military airlift also delivered generators, heavy equipment and other supplies there.

Americans and Manatee County residents have many opportunities to contribute to aid campaigns. We recommend donating only to established charities and caution against falling prey to unscrupulous fraud schemes, which always surface during disasters.

The American Red Cross, with disaster teams and satellite equipment en route, recommends monetary donations only.

"We can't send any donated items or anything," Janet McGuire, the communications officer for Florida's west coast region of the organization, told Herald reporter Sara Kennedy. "There's no place to store it right now. Money is the only thing done so far."

Humanitarian aid worker Jessica Alexander writes below that many well-intentioned Americans donate inappropriate goods -- old clothes and shoes and other second-hand items that disaster victims reject. Those products are best donated to Manatee thrift stories in support of local jobs.

Right now, cash is king, money that aid organizations can direct to the most critical needs -- like a generator for a crippled hospital left powerless and unable to treat the injured and ill.

Lakewood Ranch-based Shelterbox USA, an international aid organization, provides another valuable commodity -- emergency tented shelters.

Shelterbox already has volunteer teams in the Philippines assisting earthquake survivors, and the organization's shelters will be vital as families struggle to survive and rebuild.

Also here at home, Bright House Networks is offering a unique form of aid, opening the Filipino Channel (980) for free where available to subscribers. That grants Manatee County's Filipino population ongoing coverage of the disaster.

The cable television provider will continue this public service through Nov. 15, though we encourage the company to extend this date considering the Philippines will remain in the news for a long time.

How to donate

Shelterbox USA: 941-907-6036; shelterboxusa.org, or text the word SHELTER to number 20222 to make a $10 donation.

American Red Cross: 941-379-9300; redcross.org/donate.

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