By Quentin Fottrell
Nearly one month after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11th, there are alarming headlines about donations not reaching victims, confusion among observers over the amount of money actually received by charities, worries about your donation reaching those who need it the most, and questions about why cash hasn’t yet been distributed directly to those on the ground.
Recent headlines like “Fail: Japan Red Cross Has Collected $1 Billion, But Failed To Give Any To Victims Yet” stem from comments by Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, who has urged that the process of channeling money be accelerated. It hasn’t happened yet. The Japanese Red Cross says it will start that “as soon as possible.”
Understandably, those who donated are frustrated. But, for those who donated from the U.S., it’s not as straightforward as it might appear. Firstly, international donations are used for a central fund for the relief efforts, not distributed in cash locally. Secondly, domestic Red Cross collections are pooled in a national committee that includes other major charities.
As Pay Dirt previously reported, the Geneva-based International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or IFRC, didn’t launch an official international appeal, but has still received donations. It says total donations from its sister societies so far is 290 million Swiss Francs or $314 million, nearly 40% of which is made up by U.S. donations.
Paul Conneally, spokesman for the IFRC in Geneva, says, “We have repeated frequently that it is too early now to know the longer term recovery needs of the affected population and decisions such as cash grants would require time and consultation if we are to be truly accountable and transparent.”
But he says funds raised internationally will also go towards costs. Conneally says the “massive, logistically-intensive operation” that the Japanese Red Cross has been running since March 11th comes with “significant costs.” He adds, “Again, these figures will not be known at this early stage as much of this operation is still in emergency mode.”
The Japanese Red Cross Society says overseas donations coming from Red Cross societies are given a designated bank account for these relief and recovery activities. The Japan branch only holds money from local donations, which are transferred to a “Grant Disbursement Committee” to be distributed among the affected population in installments.
Naoki Kokawa, director of the International Department at the Japanese Red Cross in Tokyo, says he welcomes any government intervention to accelerate the process: “There are still many people missing, rapid movements of population from evacuation centers and elsewhere, and the loss of all documents/computer data on citizenship in the affected towns and villages.”
Are you concerned about your donations to Japan?