"Between government bodies , charities of every size, and contributions from concerned individuals, a massive Hurricane Harvey relief effort has taken shape in the US. But these well-intentioned bids to ship goods to Texas are perpetuating a common myth of post-disaster charitable giving.

As a researcher with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, acentre at Harvard University dedicated to analysing and improving the way professionals and communities respond to emergencies, I’ve seen the evidence on dozens of disasters, from Hurricane Sandy to the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. It all points to a clear conclusion: in-kind donations of items such as food, clothing, toiletries and nappies are often the last thing that is needed in these areas.

Delivering things that people need on the ground simply doesn’t help disaster-struck communities as much as giving them – and relief organisations – money to buy what they need…"


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