Getting Aid to Philippines Is Challenging, Costly
Don Fields and his wife Sandee, who operate a warehouse for Kids Against Hunger, are preparing to send what they call "medicine in a bag" to victims of Typhoon Haiyan. The warehouse is packed with boxes of food ready to be shipped overseas.
"Each one of these boxes has 36 bags of food, and each bag will feed a family of six for one day," Fields explained.
It's a soy and rice mix that Fields says is formulated to kick-start the digestive system of a person going hungry. But getting this precious cargo—two shipping containers worth—to the Philippines will be costly.
"To ship from my warehouse to the Philippines, a 40-foot container, which is 18 pallets, is $4,000," said Fields.
Which is why many experts say that unless you're part of an organization like Kids Against Hunger, one equipped with the resources to ship large quantities of food or water, the best way to help is to donate money.
Associate Professor Ann Campbell with the University of Iowa said that's because items like boxes are much more expensive to put to good use.
"You have to come up with suppliers, because people were self-sufficient before, in terms of food and water, and you've got to figure out who is going to donate what," said Campbell. "You've got to deal with infrastructure damage."
Campbell, who researches transportation and logistics, says vehicle supply chains are usually set up to maximize profits, but in a disaster, it's no longer about making money.
"Food , shelter, water is priority one," said Campbell. "We're not maximizing profit; it all becomes about speed, and some of the things that maximize profit do not maximize speed."
But Fields is up to the challenge. He'll be communicating with non-government organizations in the Philippines to make sure that this food gets to the people who need it most.
"They have the capability of tracking the food," Fields told us. "We track it all the way over there, we know when it gets to port, we know who unloads it, who picks it up, where it goes, and what warehouse it's stored in, and then people can come in and distribute it."