January 3, 2005: Headlines: Directors - Bellamy: Tsunami: United Nations: Unesco: New York Times: Carol Bellamy gives advice on tsunami contributions

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Carol Bellamy gives advice on tsunami contributions

Carol Bellamy gives advice on tsunami contributions

Carol Bellamy gives advice on tsunami contributions

Ripple Effects of the Waves May Last Years

Published: January 3, 2005

CAROL BELLAMY, who has been responding to natural and man-made disasters for a decade as the executive director of Unicef, took time out before leaving to visit Sri Lanka and Indonesia to talk about disaster relief, and how those who want to help can be effective. Or ineffective.

Ms. Bellamy's main message is that the world has to be in this for the long haul. "You can't turn it off in two weeks," she said in an interview on Friday. "It is on a huge scale, in many countries, and the second phase is much longer." After the crisis - after finding and burying the dead, purifying the water, providing food, medicine, health care and temporary shelter - comes rebuilding. In this instance, on an unimaginable scale.

A dozen countries are suffering from the impact of the tsunami that killed tens of thousands and destroyed towns, industries, villages. Realistic estimates suggest that returning to a semblance of normalcy could take years.

"These countries have to be functioning again," said Ms. Bellamy, a former citywide elected official in New York. "The basic systems - health, transportation, education, basic systems - have to be functioning again. In terms of rebuilding the fisheries industry, the tourism industry, it's going to take awhile."

The public - nations and their citizens - have contributed to the victims of the tsunami at unprecedented levels, stunned by the scale of the disaster or directly touched by it because so many Europeans were vacationing in the countries ravaged by the enormous wave. By this past weekend, more than 40 nations had pledged $2 billion, the United Nations said.

But as time goes on, there will be other emergencies and distractions, and building a school or a fishing boat does not wrench the heart the way comforting the frightened and feeding the hungry does.

"People lose interest," said Ms. Bellamy, who has seen attention wane after the initial shock of earthquakes and during protracted wars.

WHAT is the implication for people who want their contribution to do the most good?

Ms. Bellamy's advice: Think long term, give long term and avoid attaching strings. People should not insist that their money be spent in the first few weeks or in one place, to give relief agencies flexibility.

She advises, too, that people contribute money, not items. "People start sending clothing, canned goods - they don't get there, or if they do, they sit there and generally are not used."

The same applies to religious organizations and groups of people with relatives in the countries slammed by the tsunami. Many have been raising money and running food and supply drives. "These really aren't international organizations, they may not know how to do things," said Ms. Bellamy, 61. "They should link up with established relief agencies and make their donations to them, to make sure that what they are raising gets through."

But to which agencies should someone contribute? That was an issue in the aftermath of Sept. 11, when so many groups were raising money it was difficult to judge their credentials and whether their own donations would reach victims.

Ms. Bellamy advised that those contributors who want their money to go only to tsunami relief should say so to a charity, in writing. (She added that Unicef, which has raised $30 million for this disaster so far, will honor that request.)

Second, Ms. Bellamy said, do your homework. "People ought to take a moment and look into a charity. You can go on the Web to check out organizations. Attorneys general have charity bureaus. It's worth 5 or 10 minutes. Don't let your desire blur your vision. See if the charity has been audited, see if it is part of a coalition of organizations, if it has a long record." Those with lengthy track records are probably legitimate: "They would be out of business if they weren't."

Ms. Bellamy, whose decade as executive director of Unicef ends on May 1, said that it and all relief agencies were focusing on immediate needs in the tsunami-hit nations, but urged a broad definition of need, to include schooling. "It's so important to start thinking about education, even at the beginning of a crisis," she said. "Getting kids into some educational environment is the best thing you can do for them. And it gives people hope."

A Unicef e-mail message about Ms. Bellamy's tour of Sri Lanka yesterday said she saw devastation, parents without children and children without parents - and children in a shelter, drawing pictures with crayons.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Peace Corps issues appeal to Thailand RPCVs Date: December 30 2004 No: 354 Peace Corps issues appeal to Thailand RPCVs
Peace Corps is currently assessing the situation in Thailand, anticipates a need for volunteers and is making an appeal to all Thailand RPCV's to consider serving again through the Crisis Corps. Also read this message and this message from RPCVs in Thailand. All PCVs serving in Thailand are safe. Latest: Sri Lanka RPCVs, click here for info.

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Story Source: New York Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Directors - Bellamy; Tsunami; United Nations; Unesco



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