11 post-Haiyan articles that are relevant for every disaster (UPDATED)

I have not included posts about the typhoon Haiyan response in my regular weekly link review, but I have come across quite a few posts that are not only worth sharing, but also worth curating and keeping in mind for the next disaster response scenario.
As with many issues in development and humanitarian aid, 'we' know quite a lot about dos and don'ts and this short collection provides a good overview over key issues, from the small and practical to the bigger political realm.
Some of the advice may seem a bit repetitive (but you can never stress local capabilities enough) and most of the articles have further links to other interesting material. Also, if you have come across a great post just share it in comments below!

18 November: I added two more articles at the end of the post.
The GUARDIAN article stresses the importance of locally-grounded approaches (again) from the view of supply chain logistics; Agnes Bun's reflections as journalist covering the disaster are an excellent contribution on the chances, limitations and changes of global journalism.


The Dos and Don't of Disaster Donations
(Saundra Schimmelpfennig)

After the tsunami tons of used clothing were donated, much of it inappropriate to the climate and culture. There were winter hats, coats and gloves donated to southern Thailand and mountains of donated clothing dumped beside the road in India. Donated goods can clog ports and prevent more critical relief items from getting through. Ports can only hold and process so many goods and often the port authorities have difficulty sorting through everything arriving to get it processed and out the doors. Please do not take up collections of medicine, clothing, baby formula, or food for shipment, or show up on your own to hand out money or goods. Although well intentioned, this can actually make the situation worse as it adds to the confusion, diverts resources, and may lead to aid dependency.
10 lessons for NGOs responding to Typhoon Haiyan
(Alex Jacobs)

8. Support local markets and move to cash transfers as soon as possible.
Local markets are probably working better than assumed. They will improve rapidly as opportunities arise and create jobs, dignity and normality. NGOs should support local markets as much as possible. For instance, they should buy goods locally wherever possible and give people money (through cash transfers) so they can choose what to buy for themselves.
Please Don’t Send Your Old Shoes to the Philippines
(Jessica Alexander)

There is one simple way that people who want to help can help. Donate money—not teddy bears, not old shoes, not breast milk. Give money to organizations that have worked in the affected areas before the storm—they will be more likely to know and be able to navigate the local context and may be able to respond faster, as it won’t take them time to set up. Give money to agencies that are able to articulate what the actual needs are and transparently tell you how they are responding. Give money to agencies that are procuring items locally to help rebuild the economy. Give money to agencies that are working with the government to ensure that their response is aligned with the national response.
Want to help the Philippines? Give unrestricted cash
(Tom Murphy)

Volunteering is often no better. The thought is to jump on a plane and lend a hand. You will create more work for the relief agencies who need to manage you and the fact that you take up valuable plane space that could be filled with skilled aid workers or lifesaving supplies. In fact, the thousands of dollars that you would spend to travel to the Philippines could do a whole lot of good if you just donated it.
Local capacity and humanitarian aid in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan
(Ed Cairns)

The humanitarian capacity of local civil society is enormously varied of course. Helping to build it is a long-term challenge. Doing that, and responding to today’s crises at the same time, is not easy. But there is no turning back. The humanitarian world will never again be the Western-dominated sector it once was. International agencies will be as vital as ever. But their – our – greatest responsibility will be to help build that local capacity.
Typhoon Haiyan: Social media improves situational awareness
(Timo Luege)

The volunteer and tech community, coordinated by the Standby Task Force, is working around the clock since last Friday to map the damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) in the Philippines. The progress that has been made, compared to Typhoon Pablo in December 2012, is impressive.
Let’s Not Help the Philippines Like We Helped Haiti
(Vijaya Ramachandran)

The world can and must do better than this in the Philippines, and there is reason to be hopeful. There has been impressive progress in using information technology to improve disaster response, especially the vibrant crisis-mapping community. These advances will surely assist the effort in the Philippines in the coming weeks. But activists mappers alone cannot fix all the problems in the humanitarian system. The next step—one that should begin with the crisis in the Philippines—is for all humanitarian organizations and aid agencies to publish details of their planned and actual spending and activities, in real time, in an open, machine-readable format. This simple step would enable outside donors and intended beneficiaries to identify where activities overlap and where the gaps remain, and it would enable everyone to see where the money is going.
Stop Catastrophizing Relief Efforts in the Philippines
(John Crowley)

When journalists focus on looting and slow aid delivery, they miss the point. Information is aid. Their reports are part of weaving the fabric of a global Filipino community back together after a typhoon tore through their hometowns. By showing communities coming together, journalists can amplify the dynamics that save lives.
It is time to look at how effectively international organizations are supporting a normally well-oiled (but now struggling) domestic response capacity, not how international aid shipments are arriving late. It is time to ask why the cellular networks are not back and running, so that the diaspora can reunite with family and send money via mobile banking. It is time to make a request of financial institutions like Western Union to reduce their surcharges on sending money to the Philippines.
Avoiding despair when disaster hits: aid, advocacy, action.
(Marianne Elliot)

Yeb Sano, Climate Change Commissioner for the Philippines wrote a very clear and concise article this week about the factors that come together to create a natural disaster as devastating as Typhoon Haiyan. His article is short, and accessible and worth reading in it’s entirety. But for those who prefer the very short version, he says:
[C]limate change will be a major factor in any weather-induced disaster. But like many other disasters, it is a deadly combination of various factors.

Typhoon Haiyan: another example of too little, too late?
(Michael Minall)

Delivering effective and efficient direct action in the face of Haiyan demands more than just disaster relief, it needs a well-organised, multilateral logistical response that is led locally and nationally, rather than internationally. Such direct action works best when those overseeing logistical delivery of the disaster response are equipped and trained to respond in an agile way.

Lessons in life from the hell of Haiyan
(Agnes Bun)

Often people asked me to film them in the mad hope that I would help them to pass on their personal messages. “Mother, I am alive,” they would say in front of my camera. Of course, it was not possible for me to pass on dozens of desperate messages. But how could I get them to understand this? How could I refuse their pleading? How could I quash the only glimpse of hope that they could see amid this complete destruction? Impossible. So I complied -- I filmed them, although I knew I would never use these images. They thanked me profusely. It broke my heart to be doing this. I felt guilty and weak. But I also saw that this sad charade seemed to really lift their spirits.
It’s at moments like this that I have to face up to an obvious truth. The truth that there are limits to what journalists can do. We cannot solve the world’s misery all by ourselves. Those six days in Tacloban taught me a lot about my profession, and about the pragmatism you need when covering this kind of tragedy, and I also learned a lot about human nature. I only hope that the experience has not left me hardened.


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