A Long-Term View for Relief in Japan

Mar 21, 2011 6:32 PM ET
Japan Earthquake_sm.jpg

What Do You Stand For?

Japan is facing the aftermath of one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent history – a 9.0-magnitude earthquake followed by tsunami, which caused a nuclear crisis. The series of events is almost unimaginable, and though the damage is high the outpouring of financial support from consumers and companies is notably lower than other recent natural disasters, including the Haiti earthquake last year, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. Why the discrepancy? It may have less to do with human compassion than with simple pragmatism.  Here are several factors at play:

  • Factor 1: Japan is a developed nation with the third largest economy in the world. Its infrastructure and resources far outweigh that of developing nations where crises also occur, such as Haiti.

  • Factor 2: The Japanese government has not issued a call for support from other nations, and in fact, turned down offers for assistance.

  • Factor 3: Nonprofit organizations in Japan, such as the Red Cross, have demonstrated a similar reticence to accept outside assistance from global affiliates.

  • Factor 4: Where do you start? As the nuclear crisis continues to escalate, there is not a clear understanding of where Japan’s biggest short or long-terms needs are.

With such reserve from the government and aid organizations, it is hardly surprising that consumers and companies alike may not be responding with the same fervor as we have seen in the past. Despite our tendency to make comparisons, disasters are not all created equal.


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