SUBANG JAYA - Do not send food or clothing to the Philippines for Typhoon Haiyan victims, urged Mercy Malaysia, as it is an inefficient form of aid.
Executive committee member Prof Dr Shalimar Abdullah said it was extremely hard to transport food or clothing as it would take two flights and a five-hour ferry journey from Kuala Lumpur to the affected area of Ormoc.
"It is also better for us to buy the items we need from there, as it helps the local economy, which is part of the recovery process," she said at the Mercy Malaysia International Humanitarian Conference 2013 yesterday.
She urged Malaysians wishing to donate to give money instead.
"There are also cultural differences - we Malaysians love to give Maggi, but some countries do not eat noodles because their staple diet is different.
"We never know the specific needs of a country from the outside," she said.
On the three-day conference, Dr Shalimar said it would cover issues such as sustainable humanitarian efforts, lessons from the field on conflict and disaster and logistics.
Currently, Mercy Malaysia has several teams on the ground in the Philippines.
It has flown in field hospital equipment for a makeshift outpatient service set up in tents, and has treated over 2,000 patients to date.
Mercy Malaysia also conducts a mobile clinic in the barangays (villages) in Valencia.
Half of the patients are children and it needs more doctors to meet the overwhelming demand.
It has also set up a mental health clinic and child-friendly space where children can express their emotions and caregivers will help them assimilate into their normal routines.
The humanitarian organisation is also packing hygiene kits for 2,000 families in the affected areas.
Each kit contains items such as soap, shampoo, slippers, toothbrushes and toothpaste, worth about RM180.
Other efforts include repairing critical parts of the Ormoc District Hospital.
Full repair work will cost US$100,000 (S$126,000).