The Most Effective Ways to Help Those Devastated by Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti hard this week -- it was a category four storm whose power was on par with 1989's disastrous storm surge Hugo. It lost some steam as it headed towards the US coast and was downgraded to a category three, but still, Matthew took more than 470 lives in Haiti so far (plus another one in the US) and the physical damage it left behind is immense, especially in a country still recovering from its last major disaster. Matthew is on course to hit Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina this weekend and they all might need our help in the coming days, but right now, we want to focus on 3,000 destroyed homes and the 15,000 displaced people in Haiti.

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There are more options than ever for donating, but we have to be careful -- after Haiti's earthquake in 2010, almost $500 million donated to the Red Cross went unaccounted for, and that's from one of the most reputable charities out there. Small scale post-disaster scams are way more common -- after Katrina, authorities investigated thousands of potential scams, and indicted more than a thousand people for donation-related fraud.

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In order to guarantee that your donation does the most good, it's probably a good idea to give to a well-established organization that has the resources to spread the funds as far as they need to go. Charity Navigator also recommends donating money instead of food or items -- especially in times of disaster, it's pretty unlikely the Haitian post offices can get (and disperse) mail.

They also warn to be wary of text donations -- while they're fast and convenient for you, there are usually other fees involved that lessen your donation and the charity often won't be able to access the money you give for up to 90 days. Of course, it will still be valuable whenever they get their hands on it, but it may not help in the immediate aftermath of disasters.

With all that in mind, here are five highly rated charities that could use your help getting aid to people in Haiti. 

  1. All Hands Volunteers
    All Hands Volunteers is one of Charity Navigator's highest-rated charities, and with good reason: They send volunteers from across the US into disaster-stricken areas and work to rebuild the infrastructure. If you donate to them and specify that you'd like your funds to go to Haiti, they'll get it there. You can also apply to volunteer -- All Hands has an immediate response team already in Haiti, and they're prepping people to head into Florida as soon as the storm hits, too.

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  2. CARE
    As one of the largest humanitarian agencies in Haiti, CARE is already on the ground in Grand'Anse, one of the hardest hit (and most remote) areas in the country. It focuses on bringing clean drinking water, food assistance, and emergency supplies (blankets, shelters, and hygiene kits) to evacuation shelters.

  3. Food for the Poor
    Food for the Poor is focusing its Hurricane Matthew efforts on getting food to areas that lost the crops and other resources they depend on for sustenance. A full 95 percent of its donations go to buying, shipping, and delivering food to areas in need, so you can trust that your donation will be put in the right place.

  4. Save the Children
    Obviously, Save the Children focuses on helping children, and we like it because it's one of the few charities that does so without a religious affiliation. Save the Children supports more than 130 schools in Haiti, and it'll use Matthew donations to rebuild these. In addition, it's deploying Emergency Health Units focusing on cholera prevention and basic health services to hard-hit areas, setting up and staffing protected childcare areas, and working with the Haitian government to help families in need. It's also prepping to send a team into Florida as soon as the storm passes there.

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  5. Project Medishare for Haiti
    Though immediate assistance is essential, Project Medishare will be most valuable to Haitians in the next few weeks -- it's planning to fight the mosquito-borne and waterborne illnesses that come after heavy flooding by distributing chlorine, hygiene kits, and health education to rural communities.

As Matthew makes its way through the southeastern US, more and more people will need our help. It's probably not a bad idea to keep an eye out for opportunities to help on a local and national level, but we'd also recommend double checking the transparency of organizations before sending donations.

 

Image via Joe Raedle/Getty

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