Typhoon relief: Cash donations the best way you can help

Typhoon relief: Cash donations the best way you can help
Filipinas packing items donated to Super Typhoon Haiyan victims at the Pinoy Star office in Lucky Plaza. Aid workers say unsolicited items often end up as trash, and that a more effective way to help is to give cash.

Aid workers call them the "disaster after the disaster" which often end up as trash.

Yet clothes, household products, food and medical supplies continue to be the most commonly donated items from people keen to help disaster relief efforts, when straight cash is best.

In the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan's destruction in the Philippines, droves of people in Singapore have called up the various voluntary welfare organisations offering these items.

Some have even tried to set up their own collection drives, urging family and friends to drop off anything from blankets to shoes and canned goods.

"There are these Facebook posts going around asking people to drop off such things for a company to ship over to the Philippines, but really, this is a big problem. These are unsolicited things that are not key items and they use up a lot of aid workers' time just to sort them out and make them usable," said Pasir Ris-Punggol MP Janil Puthucheary.

Dr Puthucheary speaks from experience - he was part of a disaster relief team sent to Banda Aceh after the deadly tsunami in 2004, and has coordinated several relief missions to other areas.

"What we've learnt is that these unsolicited items often end up as trash, or take up valuable spaces in hospitals and collection compounds," he said.

The problem of such unwanted donations has plagued relief efforts in the Philippines, prompting its embassy in Singapore to post an advisory on its website discouraging the donation of used clothes, and outlining that "the best way to help the typhoon victims is to donate through cash".

This "will avoid logistical problems and ensure that the best items necessary for relief operations can be obtained and distributed on the ground", added the advisory.

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