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Uninvited Do-Gooders Impede Disaster Relief Efforts

Volunteer

First Posted: 03/23/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 04:15 PM ET

Does following the news coverage of the Haiti quake make you want to jump on the next plane there or empty your closet to help victims?

Please don't, professional rescuers beg. A plethora of well-meaning volunteers are descending on the devastated city of Port-au-Prince raring to help but ill prepared to even take care of themselves, MSNBC reports.

"Everyone wants to be a hero. Everyone wants to help," said Dr. Thomas Kirsch, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Refugee and Disaster Response. "It's not the way to do it."

Even a medical crew from his own school -- Kirsch declined to identify them -- arrived in Haiti so ill-prepared they had to seek sustenance from non-governmental organizations.

"They had no bedding, supplies or food," he said. "They ended up glomming onto some of the NGOs."

The Johns Hopkins group was just one of many good-intentioned groups trying to help without adequate training or resources. Diana Rothe-Smith, executive director of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster said experts are also cringing in anticipation of the manpower it will take to sort through bulk donations from food and clothing drives.

Donations of old clothes, canned goods, water and outdated prescriptions are accumulating, said Brooks. While such items sound useful, they're actually expensive to sort, to transport and to distribute, she said. Cast-off drugs can be dangerous.

Oftentimes, the household items donated are simply not useful to the disaster victims they're intended to help.

"I guarantee you someone is going to send a winter coat or high-heeled shoes," Brooks said.

The experts' advice? Channel that passion to aid others into financial contributions. That way, survivors of the quake will get exactly what they need from trained professionals without the time-suck of misplaced good intentions.

Read the full story on MSNBC.


Filed by Victoria Fine  |