We must do something

04 Nov 2020

In the days immediately following a disaster the pull to take action and give is compelling. However, in the confusion and uncertainty following a disaster, any rush to action can end up doing more harm than good.

In the days immediately following a disaster - be it a typhoon, earthquake or epidemic - the pull to take action and give is compelling. We feel we cannot just sit back and watch as the horrific images of communities broken and people suffering unfold before our eyes.

“We must do something”, everyone says. And they’re right!

However, in the confusion and uncertainty following a disaster, when needs on the ground can change dramatically from week to week and even day to day, any rush to action can end up doing more harm than good. Duplication, waste and poor prioritisation are among the most common pitfalls. Desperately needed medicine labelled in a foreign language can end up lying unused at the docks, while low priority aid congests transport, storage and distribution facilities, delaying urgently needed supplies.

In other words, emergencies don’t eliminate the need for planning and coordination, they make it even more crucial, especially if we want to have the most impact.

When emergencies strike, Cartier Philanthropy responds by supporting organisations that save lives, relieve suffering, reduce the number of casualties and restore dignity. About 10% of our budget is dedicated to this.

We rely on three key steps to identify the right partner organisation but also to fully understand the emergency we’re facing:

1. We assess the needs of the impacted populations with a focus on the most vulnerable.

2. We analyse the frontline organisations that have a track record of delivering strong results and have a historical presence in the impacted region.

3. We monitor the crisis as it evolves and the responses already in place to be sure we fill a gap.

Cartier Philanthropy responded to two dramatic humanitarian emergencies this summer. The first dominated the news for days. The second was soon forgotten. Both demanded our support.

Following the massive explosion that ripped Beirut apart on the 4th of August 2020, we decided to support Medair to deliver emergency aid to those impacted and displaced by the disaster, in particular to meet their shelter and health needs. After the first wave of relief aid, Medair’s teams will be able to support the long-term recovery of the affected communities, assisting in the rehabilitation of damaged buildings and public facilities and providing mental health support to the most vulnerable groups.

Between June and August 2020, Bangladesh battled its worst and longest monsoon flooding in years. About a quarter of the country was submerged. Hundreds of people were killed. Nearly 5 million people lost their homes, livelihoods and land in just a few weeks.

Immediately after the deadly floods hit the country, we decided to support BRAC’s emergency response and recovery plan to provide ongoing humanitarian assistance in the months to come, meeting the displaced populations’ basic needs and containing the spread of COVID-19 in temporary shelters. As the flood waters recede and people slowly return to their homes, BRAC is ready to provide early recovery support in the form of cash assistance for repairing damaged houses and purchasing safe water supplies and adequate sanitation facilities.

It’s not easy to predict exactly how a region will bounce back from adversity or what aid will be most effective, but one thing is certain: philanthropy has a role to play in securing recovery.