Disaster relief funders have to be incredibly responsive because there is no way of predicting when disasters will strike or the breadth of the destruction. Earthquakes are a great example of just how sudden a catastrophe can emerge—and challenge the capacity of funders who want to help in a timely fashion.
Three earthquakes recently struck Japan. At the same time, a powerful 7.8 magnitude quake hit Ecuador. While it’s still too early to tell whether the quakes are related, all three struck along the Ring of Fire—a horseshoe-shaped area running from the Tonga archipelago to southern tip of South America—and have resulted in massive destruction and a death toll that continues to climb.
When wide-scale disasters such as these occur, responders are faced with a multitude of challenges. Search and rescue missions must be mounted, medical relief equipment and supplies delivered, and temporary shelters provided. These initial response and relief efforts are typically organized and launched by country and local government agencies and organizations.
In poor regions of the world, however, existing resources are already lacking, making the need for outside help exceedingly acute. Getting that aid to where it’s needed is even more difficult after infrastructure is damaged or destroyed. While there are a number of disaster relief organizations that will likely respond in the coming days and weeks to these latest earthquakes, one funder that is nearly always on the scene immediately after a disaster strikes is the Western Union Foundation.
Less than a week after the first earthquake struck Japan and just a few days after the 7.8 monster hit Ecuador, the Western Union Foundation is committing $25,000 and $75,000, respectively, to support relief efforts in both countries. The foundation is providing a dollar-for-dollar match from Western Union Agents, business customers, partners, and NGOs donating to the cause, as well as a 2:1 match for employee donations.
In Japan, the funds support the International Medical Corps to provide sanitation and hygiene supplies to disaster victims as well as “other urgently needed items” for people who have been displaced from their homes.
In Ecuador, Western Union is directing the money to the Ecuadorian Red Cross for its effort to provide medical treatment, shelter, and food. Funds are also earmarked for water and hygiene supplies.
The Western Union Foundation is a relatively quiet but persistent contributor to disaster response and relief efforts around the world. And while it’s certainly not the biggest player in the global philanthropy field—or even the disaster relief field, for that matter—the foundation has demonstrated some pretty impressive agility and staying power.