Japan Earthquake: Why Red Cross Still Hasn't Doled Out Donations To Quake Victims

04/07/2011 03:10 pm ET | Updated Jun 07, 2011

The Japanese government has admitted it was slow to respond to the the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. Now, almost a month after the disaster, Japan's Red Cross has also come under fire for not yet distributing to victims any of the nearly $1.3 billion the public has donated.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano has called for the process to be accelerated, the Los Angeles Times reports. But it might not be that easy.

The problem lies in streamlining the distribution process among such wide regions, Edano tells the Los Angeles Times.

Many of the local governments that would have been involved are no longer operational, Reuters reports. As early as this week, the Japanese Red Cross -- along with existing local governments and other agencies -- will form a committee to decide how to split the aid, according to Tadateru Konoe, president of the Japanese Red Cross Society. He tells Reuters:

"This is a big challenge and it is not something that we can resolve on our own," Konoe said. "Fairness and speediness do not go together easily."

Saundra Schimmelpfennig, a relief worker in Asia and former American Red Cross program coordinator, tells Marketplace she's not surprised the money is sitting.

"I think that the average person has misconceptions about how quickly you can truly respond well to a disaster, and there have been numerous instances where spending the money quickly is not spending it well."

She says in addition to initial setup complications, other obstacles include distribution criteria and logistics -- managing money transfers and determining whether to split aid based on need, family size or other factors, for example.

"There's been lots and lots of examples of past disasters that have shown that there really needs to be a coordinated thought-out response with the local people having some decision-making in it."

LISTEN:

Do your part and learn how you can help Japan by visiting our "How To Help Japan" guide or clicking below.