The disasters we don't hear about and how you can help

Posted on January 05, 2011 by Veronica Taylor

It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

Recent flooding and mud slides in California moved, in the form of a fierce blizzard, to the east coast this past weekend.

Travelers stranded for days, roads in New York City impassable, lives lost because emergency teams could not reach people to help them.  And, the governor of Pennsylvania appeared on national television to complain about the postponement of a national football league game.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

The American Red Cross confirms that “the frequency and severity of disasters are increasing due to rapid population growth, unplanned urbanization, environmental degradation and climate change.”  They add that “disaster prone areas are often the least able to bounce back.”  In 2010, the American Red Cross responded to emergencies in more than 60 countries around the world.

This past week saw the first postponement of a national league football game since 1932.

But, there was yet another “first” in late 2010.  Because of continuous rains in Panama since early November, devastating floods covered most of the country, forcing the government of Panama to declare a national emergency.  Homes, businesses, and farming areas were destroyed.  Lives were lost.  Here’s the “first” I mentioned:  the Panama Canal was actually closed temporarily for the first time in its history.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

I hadn’t heard about this disaster until this week, through a phone call with Red Cross staff.  They also told us about devastating flooding in Colombia, affecting 28 of 32 departments (or counties) in that country.  Those rains began in March, due to the effects of La Nina, and are projected to continue into 2011.  Flooding and landslides destroyed homes, infrastructure and crops, affecting more than 2 million people across Colombia.

The American Red Cross responded, supplementing local Red Cross organizations, by providing mosquito netting, blankets, hygiene kits and other resources, to help local relief organizations respond to people in dire need.

Events around the world are proving the idea that disasters are becoming more frequent.  Local and international relief organizations must respond very quickly.  These organizations cannot rely on a “call for donations” each time a disaster occurs. They must be ready to respond immediately, and that means resources – money.  That’s why many relief organizations are looking to establish “rapid response” funds and that’s why all of us should consider donating to these types of funds.

We need to help these relief organizations do their jobs and get help to victims quickly, without the need to call out for donations every time a disaster occurs.

Let’s hope that 2011 defies the predictions and there are fewer disasters in the coming year.  And, let’s help relief organizations and workers do their jobs and help people who are truly suffering.  It’s not a matter of convenience, it’s a matter of lives being saved.

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