Our hearts go out to the Philippines | In Our Opinion

The casualties from Typhoon Haiyan as of Nov. 18, according to the Government of the Philippines: 3,976 dead, 18,175 injured, 1,598 missing.

Our hearts go out to the Philippines, and to those here who have lost or worry about loved ones in that country.

As you read this, food and medicine is being distributed, roads and communications systems are being reopened, possible hazards are being cleared, people are being evacuated.

According to the Government of the Philippines, the following had been deployed in the recovery effort as of Nov. 18: 23,561 personnel, 1,293 vehicles, 82 seacrafts, 110 aircrafts and 27,472 other assets/equipment from national and local agencies, responders and volunteer organizations. Among those on the ground is Poulsbo Fire Department paramedic Jake Gillanders, who went to the Philippines at his own expense with EMPACT Northwest, a charitable organization comprised of medical professionals providing disaster relief, medical education and medical aid to communities in need.

You may want to help the relief effort. By Nov. 18, the American Red Cross had provided $11 million to Philippine relief; go to www.redcross.org to see how you can contribute. The Philippine government’s Department of Social Welfare and Development has established a relief fund at the Land Bank of the Philippines, Batasan Branch, Quezon City. Go to www.landbank.com for contact information.

If you are asked to give, exercise caution. The Washington state Attorney General’s office is warning of email scams which solicit the wiring of money to stranded victims in the Philippines.

“Unfortunately, scammers look to exploit our compassion for helping others during disasters,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a notice issued by his office. “Take time to research the charity you’d like to donate to so your hard earned money reaches those in need, not a scammer’s wallet.”

Ferguson advises donors to take proactive steps to avoid being ripped-off by questionable solicitors or wasting money on poorly-managed relief efforts.

Don’t donate based on names. Avoid organizations that include the name of the storm or disaster, as they may have just been founded and have little experience or are simply trying to take advantage of highly-visible news coverage.

You can check out charities at www.bbb.org/us/charity and get more consumer-protection information at www.atg.wa.gov/ConsumerIssues/Charities/default.aspx#.UoMn8LHTnmI.

Avoid donating the wrong goods or products. Sending non-essential items could be a wasted effort and slow down the relief process; be sure to verify which items are needed and the specific distribution plans that are in place. Some organizations may only accept clothing and goods from locations close to the disaster zone to avoid freight costs.

Steer clear of inexperienced relief efforts. Inexperienced charities will likely hamper assistance and divert funds from other helpful organizations.

Research before donating. Before responding to emails or social media posts soliciting money, check out organizations to verify accountability standards. “Good intentions aren’t enough to carry out relief activities effectively,” according to Ferguson’s office. “[C]harities should be transparent, accountable and well-managed.”

We are all made stronger by our concern and response in times of calamity. Give if you can, but give cautiously. And pray for the people of the Philippines.



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