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Safe Donations to Victims of the Tsunami in Japan

This article was written by in Charity. 12 comments.

Updated March 16, 2011. If you have been paying attention to the media, you most likely saw terrifying footage of tsunami waves destroying much of the eastern coastal areas of Japan, particularly Miyagi prefecture. Friday’s earthquake measuring 9.0 magnitude on the Richter scale triggered massive waves that leveled homes and farms, left thousands missing, forced an evacuation of the area surrounding a nuclear power plant, and triggered estimates of ten thousand killed. The natural effects extended to the west coast of the United States, where strong currents affected some ports and waves forced evacuations of some areas.

In addition, the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was affected by the disaster, with some injuries to employees after an explosion and a call for surrounding residents to evacuate.

When devastation hit Haiti in 2009, Americans wanted to help those affected by devastation. Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals worked hard to take advantage of the good will. Soon after the disaster, there were many websites collecting funds purportedly for assistance. Unfortunately, many were simply scams, designed to take people’s money. There will surely be similar websites designed to trick well-meaning individuals into parting with their money.

If you plan to support the relief efforts in Japan, consider sending money to legitimate, international organizations that focus on humanitarian aid during crises. Don’t give food or supplies; it’s best to let the aid organizations decide what materials they need and when they need it. As with any charity, though, the exact dollar you send today may not go directly to Japan. Many organizations already have funds committed to relief. Your dollar will go to replenishing the money that is currently being spent.

The American Red Cross is already on the scene in Hawaii and the U.S. west coast, and has pledged financial support to the Japanese Red Cross. You can donate $10 to the Red Cross by texting “redcross” to number 90999. If you prefer to make a larger contribution, visit the American Red Cross donation center. “Your gift to the American Red Cross will support our disaster relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific. On those rare occasions when donations exceed American Red Cross expenses for a specific disaster, contributions are used to prepare for and serve victims of other disasters.”

Japan sits on the intersection of three tectonic plates and is thus no stranger to earthquakes. In fact, Japan’s infrastructure, at least in the cities, is particularly suited to withstand most major earthquakes, more so than the rest of the world, including California. The death toll could have been much higher with less sophisticated engineering, but this is no comfort to those displaced, hurt, or killed by the tsunami. As Japan is well-prepared, the need for international assistance is not as great as it would be for a developing nation.

UPDATED. Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) has been assessing the situation, and is now providing mobile clinics on the ground in Japan. “Although injured people had been evacuated by helicopter from these areas, many elderly people were still there, some of whom were dehydrated, the coordinator said… MSF is now identifying specific needs — including oxygen, non-food items, medical items and water — and will work with Japanese authorities to assist these populations.” The organization is currently not soliciting donations for this effort, they are drawing upon previous donations that have not been earmarked for a specific cause. If you’d still like to donate to MSF, in the United States, visit the organization’s website.

Oxfam has yet to determine whether Japan has a need for this international organization’s assistance. Usually, Oxfam reserves its support for areas of the world that would not be able to support recovery on their own. Japan is a wealthy notation, and has been charitable when other nations needed assistance. Many governments, including that of the United States, have pledged support, but unlike recent disasters, Japan has the ability to handle much of the recovery.

UPDATED. The International Medical Corps is actively working in Japan right now to support the government’s response efforts. To provide $10 in support, text MED to number 80888 or donate online.

Keep the above in mind when considering your donations. Give only to organizations that have 501(c)3 status — not because of the tax deduction, but because of the requirement of public accountability.

Updated June 24, 2016 and originally published March 14, 2011.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 TakeitEZ

It is beyond a shame and just utterly disgusting that people take advantage of these horrific events to scam people from their well intentioned donations. Those scammers are the scum of the earth in my opinion and deserve a serious beat down and jail time. I just can’t wrap my head around such deplorable behavior.

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avatar 2 rewards
avatar 3 Sarah

Scammers will really take advantage of ANY opportunity, even horrible disasters. Thanks for reminding people of this fact.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

Scammers will take advantage of anything, and many donations were wasted after the disasters in Haiti and tsunami in Indonesia.

That said, Japan is one of the most transparent, least-corrupt countries on earth (don’t take my word for it: check the listings at Transparency International). Donating to Japan, especially through a reputable charity like Doctors without Borders or the Red Cross, is a fairly safe situation.

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avatar 5 Cejay

I have made my donation through Red Cross. I saw an article where a particular pop star is offering cheaply made bracelets for a fee that will go to Japan.. My question becomes is the donation made before or after they take out all their charges? I read multiple stories about another pop star who employed numerous friends and family members in the Haiti effort. These things need to be found out before hand.

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avatar 6 Luke Landes

That’s great that a star can being attention to the issue and offer to donate part of their sales to helping others. I’m sure they make the donation after expenses — and it’s tax deductible for the pop star, not for you. Not only that, it could be months before the pop star tallies the revenue and makes the contribution. If you want to do good for the people in Japan, donate to a 501(c)3 organization that is providing support. If you want to buy whatever it is that a pop star is selling, go ahead and do that. Even if the star sends money to Japan, none of the money you spent counts as a contribution.

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avatar 7 Cejay

Exactly Flexo, you said what I was thinking in much better words. But how many young people do fall prey to this ploy? I have all ready heard the comments with my younger nieces that they need this bracelet that Lady Gaga is selling and IT GOES TO JAPAN. So they give their hard earned money to get it. I try to educate but fall into the lecture mode too often and their eyes glaze over and I get frustrated. I guess they will have to live and hopefully, learn.

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avatar 8 The Latter-day Saver

My wife and I contributed to the Latter-day Saint Charities Humanitarian Aid Fund. 100% of all donations go to help people in dire need. You can help the people of Japan and others in need too!

To donate:

To find out more:

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avatar 9 The Latter-day Saver

Flexo, thanks for using the valubale space on your website to highlight this important issue and allow others to share their thoughts, concerns, and experiences as it relates to helping others.

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avatar 10 4hendricks

People who will scam the elderly will be low enough to scam anyone. Thank you for this article, and God be with those in Japan.

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avatar 11 gotr31

Thanks for all the info. I certainly want my money going directly to help the people in Japan and not into some scum’s pocket!

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avatar 12 skylog

first, thank you for using your site to help the people of japan. every little bit helps.

second, i can not describe how much i am truly upset that people try to take advantage of situations like this. it is nothing new, and i am sure it will come out in this case and other ones in the future, but it just makes me wonder about society. i know there is so much good out there, but it still does not eliminate the feeling that comes over me when i sit and think about it.

lastly, i am glad to do my part, through direct donations, discussing the issues and trying to get others involved. we can only hope they will recover and become an even stronger people with time.

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