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AND MY RUNNER UP....
When in Pakistan with American NGO-- our warehouse received at least 5 pallets FULL of crates of glass bottles of Milk of Magnesia. How bad is this? Well, Magnesium hydroxide is common component of antacids and laxatives; it interferes with the absorption of folic acid. Constipation is not a big problem in Pakistan or Afghanistan and when it is it is usually due to something like worms or cancer. Moreover, folic acid is needed to prevent birth defects and is not something we wanted to prevent people from absorbing. These glass bottles were heavy and thus, untransportable to clinics in rural Afghanistan had we had a reason to want to.
Milk of magnesia (MOM) can cause diarrhea and the loss of potassium in the stools which can lead to muscle cramping and even death.
The cost to the donor of getting this worthless & possibly dangerous mix to us was unimaginable. We were slack-jawed and stuck with tons of it to store and dispose of.
To be fair we learned that MOM is a pretty good antiperspirant and useful for covering canker sores and some rashes.
After two years of MOM only antiperspirant we had used up only a few bottles, not even an entire box of the shipment. The outer cardboard was flaking away around the cartons as we it continued to try and solve the puzzle of what to do with these bottles. My guess is that 5 pallets with 64 crates per pallet and 20 bottles per crate was ~6400 large bottles!). Of course we had to "guard them" to make sure they were not sold, broken, or distributed and walk around them in the driveway. The donor got a tax break and we can only hope that their intentions were deeper than that.
Sharon McDonnell MD MPH, Dartmouth Medical School |
January 22, 2010 at 10:12 PM
I have two examples that I think are worth remembering. First, we received:
a boat load (yes, an entire boat-- came to port in Karachi Pakistan) of single unmatched shoes. Majority were left foot only. Donor country to remain nameless. There were thousands of different types of ADULT shoes. High heels, sandals, running shoes, slippers, boots, every type in the world but only one of each and usually just the left one.
The explanation was that people in need could mix and match them and un-matched shoes are better than no shoes AND -this is true- they went on to say that since there were so many amputees single shoes might actually be useful to people with only one foot.
We (NGO coordination group) determined that unloading the boat and having the footwear trucked to the refugee camps would cost more than anyone could bear or make sense of. The 2 small NGOS's that worked with prosthetic limbs ruled most of the shoes inappropriate for use with prosthesis because they were not durable or safe.
Not only did this gift not help but we spent a lot of time trying to figure out what we had, if there was any value to it and then, when it was decided to refuse the gift the Pakistan Govt wanted to charge for costs associated with port + admin costs + security deposits that might be returned if the boat would leave + any costs of disposal of unused items. The financial numbers floating about in these discussions were ever changing but reached over a million USD at least once in the bickering. We turned it over to the embassy and fled back to the border areas (a very long way). Could be the boat is still there or maybe on its way to Haiti now.
Sharon McDonnell MD MPH, Dartmouth Medical School |
January 22, 2010 at 10:11 PM
Thanks for the submission. I read the article and it only talks about the feelings and desires of those people giving the donations and nothing about the thoughts of the people receiving the donations or of the surrounding community and their thoughts on the donation. Unfortunately this is why inappropriate donations continue, because it makes those giving the donation feel good. Little is ever known about the actual impact of the donation.
October 14, 2009 at 09:49 AM
I found this so ridiculous that I tried to register to leave a comment, and when the registration thingie didn't work, even email the newspaper.
Andrea Bohnstedt |
October 14, 2009 at 09:32 AM
I once had someone call me to ask whether any NGOs would be interested in a donation of 23kgs of old campervanning magazines...seriously!
September 01, 2009 at 06:55 AM
I don't know if the cows are an urban myth or not, but I've heard of a similar problem with cats being dropped by parachute to kill rats devastating crops.
June 29, 2009 at 04:17 PM
I'm not sure if this is an urban myth or really true - a friend who had worked in former Yugoslavia told me this story and she's a reliable sort, but it just seems too fantastic now. Still, it's fun and I wouldn't put anything past a driven NGO: She said that because the roads had been so bad, the NGO-I-shall-not-name couldn't transport the livestock it was going to donate by road. So they ended up parachuting the cows in. Cows, obviously, don't have much parachute training, so they broke their legs, and had to be shot and ended up eaten.
Andrea Bohnstedt |
June 29, 2009 at 03:41 PM
My favorite bad in-kind donation was a railroad car of World War II-era collapsible wooden latrines - donated by an enterprising army officer following Hurricane Andrew (in 1992).
They were loaded on a flat car and sent to Florida. The offer was made after they were in route. Never did find out where they ended up.
Orion Bell |
June 23, 2009 at 02:42 PM
Once had a group of Western college students in Thailand gather clothing for a distressed community. Some of them decided it was a good chance to dump surplus baggage, resulting in the donation (and accidental public unveiling) of a tiny, hot pink bikini to a predominantly Muslim village.
The recipients took it in good humor, but the donors were horrified.
June 01, 2009 at 09:37 AM
Contributed by Mark Hart via LinkedIn
After Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras, I started a drive to collect and ship relief aid. Chiquita donated a freight container, and I advertised on the radio and in the local paper for sheets, non-perishables, clothing, medical supplies, etc. Among the 9.5 tons of material we sorted and shipped, I got two pallets of Halloween candy from Wal-Mart. I ended up sending it anyway, even though it was lollipops in the form of skeletons...rather morbid, considering all the destruction, but candy is candy!
May 30, 2009 at 12:29 PM
Contributed by John Daly via LinkedIn
40 years ago an outmoded (tubes rather than transisters much less chips) computer was sent from the United States to a Chilian university. It was dropped from the airplane on being unloaded and fell some 20 feet. When finally it arrived at the Chilian university it of course did not work. Two years later I came up from another Chilian university where I was working in the computer center to see if I could help, since it was still not working. As far as I know, it never worked in Chile, in spite of huge amounts of scarce manpower that were devoted to trying to fix it.
May 29, 2009 at 10:47 PM
Contributed by By Jim Shanor via LinkedIn
Used Electric Blankets to Kakuma Refugee Camp, reported to me by IRC friend and manager at the camp.
May 29, 2009 at 10:44 PM
Contributed by Edward Farrar via linkedIn
Shortly after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, my company organized a shipment of food and medical supplies to be distributed by our Indonesian field office. Several Congressmen became involved. One, from Texas, proudly delivered several pallets loaded with SPAM that had been generously donated by his constituents. He seemed surprised to learn that pork products were not welcome in the world's largest Muslim country, saying that down where he came from folks love SPAM!
May 29, 2009 at 10:42 PM
Kosovo was a hotbed of poor donations. Two of my faves:
-- Pallets marked "assorted multivitamins" but actually containing ginkgo pills and other assorted "herbal supplements"
-- A missionary organization that attempted to donate a fancy western X-ray machine to a tiny village health post
Also, I once read of a church group that flew into Uganda with suitcases full of deflated soccer balls - which they had personally deflated by hand back the US....evidently they didn't stop to think that perhaps soccer balls might be widely available in Premiere League-mad Uganda....
May 29, 2009 at 01:11 PM
A suggestion from Jared Augenstein entered on change.org's Global Health blog http://globalhealth.change.org/blog/view/what_not_to_give_in_emergencies
"Another thing to add to this list is glasses; people think they're helping by donating their old pairs of glasses but they are rarely useful. They are never the correct prescription and they frequently break leaving the people whom they were given to left visionless once again. Reading glasses are fine but prescription glasses should just be thrown away."
May 28, 2009 at 07:09 PM
Alanna Shaikh wrote a related post on Change.org's Global Health blog titled What Not to Give in Emergencies.
Her 5 big items NOT to donate were:
The Dalkon Shield
Randomly chosen drugs
See her posting at http://globalhealth.change.org/blog/view/what_not_to_give_in_emergencies
May 28, 2009 at 02:33 PM
Suggested via twitter from @bloodandmilk
Aid for Kosovo's website http://www.mo-river.net/kosovo.htm
"Honduras: Hurricane Mitch Tons of unused donations of unneeded bottled water, food and other items remain both inside and outside Honduran warehouses while building supplies are scarce, there are few donated books and, despite widespread fear of mosquito-borne diseases, there’s little donated repellent. Many of these unsolicited donations have compromised lifesaving relief efforts and exposed victims to new dangers. According to World Relief, a humanitarian aid group that handled Miami's 100-ton-a-day stream of donations, "Effectiveness could have at least doubled, if they would have been able to get the appropriate relief in when people needed it." For a month, at the height of the disaster, clothes, bottled water and other unclaimed shipments jammed Puerto Cortes, Honduras’ main port, impeded the delivery of pipes for water treatment plants and of food for Mitch victims living in shelters. Unsolicited contributions can even cause harm, as was seen when powerful new U.S. antibiotics were shipped to rural Honduran clinics without Spanish-language instructions for health care providers. Also shipped was infant formula that, if mixed with contaminated water, could kill a child from diarrhea in 24 hours. According to the Pan American Health Organization, there were situations where out of 15 pallets of pharmaceuticals, three-quarters of them turned out to be trash and one-quarter essential."
May 28, 2009 at 11:11 AM
Suggested by @swampcottage on twitter
BBC article http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4664884.stm
Kenya rejects aid of 'dog food'
Kenya has declared a national disaster because of food shortages. Kenya's government is outraged by an offer of food aid from a New Zealand dog food manufacturer to help the 4m people hit by drought.
But Christine Drummond told the BBC she could assure Kenyans that the nutritional supplement she was offering was "definitely not dog food".
It is "a high-powered food full of nutrients. It tastes yummy," she said.
The minister co-ordinating the relief effort, John Munyes, told the AFP news agency the offer was in "bad taste".
Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua told Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper that any food aid must be up to standard.
"Kenyan children are not in such shortage of food to resort to eating dog food," he said.
May 28, 2009 at 07:14 AM
Didn't actually happen, but someone on twitter suggested that campers send their used tents to China for housing after the quake.
May 28, 2009 at 12:46 AM
My all-time favorite is a Soviet donation to Guinea, right after the Guineans had the nerve to stand up to the French by choosing independence in the referendum of 1958. The French were furious; Guinea was the only colony that chose not to remain part of France. They left and took everything with them - down to ripping the toilets and sinks out of the walls in the restrooms of government ministries. Guinea's then-new President, Sekou Toure, went looking for aid and found it from the Soviets, who promptly shipped a load of snowplows to the West African state.
Texas in Africa |
May 27, 2009 at 10:58 PM
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