Recently in Northern and Central Iraq, clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), its allied militias, the government of Iraq and Kurdish regional government security forces have driven thousands of people from their homes. Since January 2014, an estimated 1.8 million people have been displaced by violence in Iraq. Their brutal circumstances are confounding, but their need for medical services, clean water, food and shelter are not very different from the privations of people affected by natural disasters.
Four thousand miles from Iraq, a protracted outbreak of the Ebola virus continues to wreak havoc across Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. As of this writing there are more 5,335 and 2,622 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Widespread population loss has threatened fragile local economies and has left many children parentless — two of numerous factors that will have ramifications long after the disease is contained.
The humanitarian emergencies in West Africa and Northern Iraq are different, but the best way to help those who suffer is the same — through cash donations to reputable organizations working with communities on the ground. Even small financial donations combine to make a huge difference in the lives of people affected by disasters. As is the case after natural disasters, donors who make the most positive and enduring impacts give monetary support to relief organizations working in affected areas, initially and over time. Unlike unsolicited material donations — those not requested by organizations working in affected communities — monetary donations enable immediate support to communities.
As situations evolve quickly in complex humanitarian emergencies like these, cash allows relief organizations to respond to changing needs quickly; enabling them to deliver essential supplies that are fresh and familiar, a huge comfort in these tragic circumstances. Most important, monetary donations empower those in the hardest hit regions to rebuild their communities, as those impacted will need support for years after the crises ease and the world’s attention turns elsewhere.
[Juanita Rilling, Director of the United States Agency for International Development’s Center for International Disaster Information, writing in Huffington Post]