U.S. Relief Organizations Defer to Japanese Agencies as Rescue Efforts Continue

U.S. Relief Organizations Defer to Japanese Agencies as Rescue Efforts Continue

Although images of the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan a week ago are as jaw dropping as those that emerged in the days after a major quake leveled Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince some fourteen months ago, relief agencies in the United States and elsewhere are proceeding with restraint and deferring much of the decision making to their Japanese counterparts, the Associated Press reports.

In the days since the magnitude 9.0 quake struck the northeast part of the country, InterAction, an umbrella group for U.S. relief agencies that work abroad, has advised donors to funnel their support for relief and recovery efforts through organizations with partners in Japan. Others, including Japanese officials, have made it clear there is little need at this early stage for donated goods or volunteers from other countries. Indeed, the government of Japan has moved quickly to organize search-and-rescue missions, something it does extremely well, as well as evacuate people from the vicinity of the gravely damaged Fukushima nuclear power complex.

Giving by major donor countries and individuals has been more subdued than was the case after such recent disasters as the earthquake in Haiti, the 2004 tsunami in South Asia, and Hurricane Katrina. As of Wednesday, the Chronicle of Philanthropy had tallied more than $64 million in gifts and pledges, including more than $5 million raised by Save the Children, about $2 million raised by the Salvation Army, and $2.25 million raised by World Vision. The American Red Cross leads the fundraising derby, having received some $47 million for relief efforts, and earlier this week transferred an initial $10 million to the Japanese Red Cross Society. Perhaps unsurprisingly, corporate giving in the wake of the disaster has been robust and totaled $137 million as of Thursday morning, according to the Corporate Aid Tracker of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Business Civic Leadership Center.

Earlier this week, AmeriCares, which has raised $1.5 million for relief efforts in Japan, deployed one of its relief experts to Tokyo to assess the situation and try to determine what shortages might emerge, especially with respect to the country's large elderly population. "Keeping the continuity of care for them is a real challenge. It has to be highly precise," Christoph Gorder, AmeriCares' senior vice president of global programs, told the AP. "Most of Japan's health system has survived to a reasonable degree — the hospitals are functioning. The challenge will be coordination, meeting those needs in an agile way."

"U.S. Relief Agencies Defer to Japan in Disaster Relief Efforts." Associated Press 03/17/2011. "Business Assistance Has Reached $137 Million, Mobilized by 107 Companies." U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center 03/17/2011.