Developed nations need aid after disasters, too

John Becker

With the most recent natural disaster and subsequent nuclear debacle in Japan, folks have been asked once more to donate through the Internet, by phone or text. Yet, Japan has only collected in the $250 million range.

I’m not trying to urge people to donate to Japan, or even to cease donations, I am merely curious why their nation has been thrown to the wayside when, according to NPR, nearly $2 billion was donated to Haiti. A N.Y. Times article stated $3.6 billion was donated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, more than 10 times the amount given to Japan.

Japan is much more established than Haiti with an astronomically higher GDP and booming technology industry, but the lack of donations hasn’t occurred because of their country’s stability, nor has it occurred because of a worse economy in the last few years.

People don’t want to donate because they don’t know where their money really goes. It’s bad enough there are charges, even necessary fees, to sustain the mobile phone donation infrastructure, when companies claim 100 percent of proceeds go to relief efforts. Companies and nonprofit organizations should be crystal clear about the breakdown of every $10 donated instead of lying about the percentage of proceeds donated.

Japan also has an entire country working towards their rebuild, whereas Americans seem to have forgotten New Orleans, figuring maybe the city could rebuild itself. Maybe the U.S. should have been a bit more isolationist after Katrina, and fully assisted New Orleans before moving on to other places.

Even before the earthquake in Haiti, foreign aid has been a third of the Haitian government’s budget. Since 1994, the U.S. has been the largest donor of Haiti’s foreign aid. Why wasn’t the U.S. helping its own people first, so that when the 2010 Haiti quake happened, we had our own city rebuilt and could focus our philanthropic efforts on the Haitians in their most dire hour.

What’s worse is that the recovery in New Orleans is still ongoing and has been taking too long. Japan will likely be up and running before the final sectors of the Big Easy are complete. Yes, much of New Orleans is rebuilt, but I’ve seen photos and heard firsthand accounts from friends volunteering or even vacationing down there that there are entire derelict neighborhoods.

Where did that $3.6 billion go, whose pockets did it line, and why has the population dropped by 29 percent from the 2000 U.S. Census to the one in 2010? I’m guessing it’s not because New Orleans has become a more hospitable place to live.

Despite the fact that I wish the U.S. would have taken care of our disaster issues before helping others, the fact is we didn’t, and we should be assisting our allies in their time of need. However, I can’t blame people for being leery about donating to any cause, whether overseas or stateside, especially when there is little evidence to show that all money goes to relief efforts instead of lining bureaucrats’ pockets.