MARCH 17, 2011, 4:36 A.M. ET
US relief agencies defer to Japan in aid efforts
The images from Japan's earthquake and tsunami are as staggering as those from thequake 14 months ago in Haiti. Yet relief agencies in the U.S. and elsewhere are responding with far morerestraint as they defer decision-making to the Japanese.InterAction, an umbrella group for U.S. relief agencies active abroad, advises donors to give to agencieswith partner organizations in Japan that would be best placed to spend funds wisely. It says there isminimal need at this stage either for donated goods or throngs of foreign volunteers."We need to be humble, so this is not about Japan being overrun by foreigners and having to deal with allkinds of wild and wacky goods showing up at Tokyo airport," said Joel Charney, InterAction's vicepresident for humanitarian policy."Find an organization that can demonstrate to your satisfaction that they have meaningful links in Japan,and give money to them," he said. "It's that simple."Thus far, the pace of donations by Americans is comparable to the response after the Indian Oceantsunami in 2004, but lags far behind the response after the Haiti earthquake. Through Wednesday,according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, donations for Japan had surpassed $64 million
less thanone-third the response for Haiti at the same stage.One reason for the gap, relief experts said, is that Haiti was known to many Americans as one of theworld's poorest countries, while Japan is among the most affluent and renowned for its disaster-preparedness expertise.Japan has taken the lead thus far in search-and-rescue efforts, and positioning relief supplies to assistdisplaced people, though it has welcomed help from the U.S. military and other selected foreign sources.Over the coming months of rebuilding, Charney said he expects the Japanese to remain largely self-sufficient. "I don't see this as a kind of Haiti-style mega-emergency, in terms of a substantial internationalpresence for an extended period of time."Several large U.S. nonprofits have the benefit of working with an affiliate or partner organization in Japan,and are channeling donations to those groups.Among them is the American Red Cross, which through Wednesday had received gifts or pledges of $47million from U.S. donors for relief efforts in Japan. It has already sent $10 million of that total to theJapanese Red Cross Society, an experienced organization with about 2 million volunteers and anongoing role running scores of hospitals in Japan."They said they would be most grateful for our help," said Suzy DeFrancis, chief public affairs officer forthe American Red Cross. "The needs are immense
they are still determining where they would spendthe money we sent."She noted that the Japanese Red Cross had been generous toward America
sending $17 million afterthe Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and $12 million after Hurricane Katrina.The U.S. branch of the Salvation Army also is providing support to its Japanese counterpart, which hasbeen active since 1895 and currently has three response teams active in the disaster zone distributingblankets, hot meals and other relief items.Major George Hood, a spokesman at the charity's U.S. headquarters, said it had received about $2million in donations from Americans earmarked for the Japanese relief effort.Like the Salvation Army, the U.S. branch of Save the Children is part of a worldwide network that includesa branch in Japan engaged in the disaster response.