Character: Build It Here
Any Gift is Better than None?
The June 29th, 1999 issue of the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an article written by Reed Abelson, entitled, “Relief workers fed up with useless lip, hemorrhoid balms.” I cut it out. Saved it for future reference. Abelson wrote about the emergency supplies sent to the Kosovo refugees, “.. relief workers desperate for syringes, penicillin and insulin found many of the hundreds of boxes instead contained Chap Stick, Preparation H and anti-smoking inhalers - given by U.S. companies that got a tax break for the donations.”
An even bigger problem for aid workers is the receipt of useless medical supplies. This includes the common practice of sending drugs that are either inappropriate or outdated. After the great Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times reported on February 25, 2007 that 57% of medications received were beyond their shelf life. 150 metric tons had to be disposed at a cost of Rs. 2.6 million (a little over $26,000). Lest you think that $26,000 is not worth mentioning, I’ll take you back to Abelson’s article, “In Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, possibly as much as half of the roughly 30,000 tons of donated medical supplies were of little or no use, according to an article that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine. The cost of destroying those drugs is estimated to be upward of $30 million - $2,000 per ton.”
On a more local level, The Sun Journal of New Bern, North Carolina, December 2, 2008, discussed how this problem impacts local charity centers with the headline, “Litterers leave trash instead of donations at Salvation Army.” People routinely dump old broken furniture, rusted out exercise equipment, bags of torn and dirty clothing, filthy toys and whatever else they don’t want. Nancy Fisher, the district operations manager for the Salvation Army said that it gets worse during the holidays, “.. because people start cleaning out and getting ready for the holidays.”
Back to Abelson’s comments, “The problem arises, critics say, because there are too many incentives for companies to empty out their warehouses, regardless of need, and for charities to ferry the supplies along. What particularly upsets the critics is the belief, especially prevalent among American donors, that any gift is better than none.”
Here's a recent article from CNBC that gives advice on how to give humanitarian aid, "How to Give Disaster Aid Without Giving a Headache"