Philippines Typhoon: How Can I Help?

Updated 11/18/13.

On Friday, November 8th, Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda) hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines and tore across its central islands, bringing windspeeds close to 200 miles per hour and a storm surge of 20 feet. We are only beginning to understand the scale of destruction, but Haiyan is estimated to have claimed thousands of lives, and the physical and economic damage will be both widespread and long-lasting.

At a moment like this, the first question for many is “How can I help?” For donors who want to make a difference, here’s what you need to know.

Give Money, Not Items

Disaster relief is difficult, often specialized work that requires experience in previous disaster situations and a high level of coordination.  Many donors are moved to donate items such as food, clothes, or blankets, but those well-intentioned efforts may be unhelpful as they require recipient organizations to manage a secondary supply chain for donations.  Instead of providing items, you can best help by providing financial donations to first-responder nonprofits.  Such donations allow first responders to purchase and deliver exactly what is needed quickly and cost-effectively, responding flexibly as needs on the ground change.

Giving Opportunities – Key First Responders

  • Philippine Red Cross: In advance of Haiyan, the Philippine Red Cross created a stockpile of food and non-food items in their regional warehouse, including thousands of tins of food, blankets, and hygiene kits. The organization also helps provide shelter to displaced survivors; they estimate that nearly 20,000 families are currently sheltered in over 300 evacuation centers.  How to support the Philippine Red Cross relief efforts.
  • UN World Food Program:  Staff from the UN’s World Food Program are currently working with government officials to boost logistics and emergency telecommunications capacity. Food distribution efforts are also underway with metric tons of food flying in from donor countries. How to support the UN World Food Program’s relief efforts.
  • UPDATE: Save the Children is on the ground providing medical supplies, shelter, and other needed items to hard-to-reach communities. How to support Save the Children’s relief efforts.

Give to Organizations with On-the-Ground Networks

The city of Tacloban has experienced thousands of deaths from Haiyan, and the situation outside of the city is even more difficult to assess. Many residents are spread out in rural communities whose access to roads or phones has been cut off by the storm. Aid items from international groups (such as those highlighted above) come into large cities, and distributing those items presents a significant logistical challenge, both in identifying areas of need and actually transporting items to those areas. Organizations which have been operating in the Philippines prior to Haiyan are among the best-positioned to overcome logistical difficulties in these early stages. These groups have on-the-ground networks and  knowledge of local communities and their needs. As a result, they are often positioned to extend the supply chain of relief to the hardest hit communities that the international aid efforts can’t yet reach.

Giving Opportunities

  • Gawad Kalinga: Begun in 1995 as a youth development program for gang members in Filipino slums, Gawad Kalinga has evolved into a nation-building organization. In response to Typhoon Haiyan, Gawad Kalinga has focused on distributing kitchen, housing, and food supplies to victims in hard-to-reach areas. The organization coordinates with local government and international aid groups in order to bring needed items the “last mile” to the families that other groups can’t yet reach.  How to support Gawad Kalinga’s relief efforts.

Help Beyond the First Stages: Relief Funds to Rebuild and Recover

Disaster relief involves four phases, starting with basic needs and moving towards rebuilding and long-term recovery.



Media and donor attention is highest in the earliest stages, but the needs on the ground don’t go away when the media attention fades. For example, many in the affected regions of the Philippines live by fishing and farming. The typhoon destroyed crops, land, and boats, leaving survivors with no way to make a living. Months from now, long past this initial blow, families will be struggling to manage without the harvest they expected from crops they planted before the typhoon, or without the boat they used to make their daily fishing trip. In other words, the rebuilding effort must last longer than the headlines, and long-term support is necessary.

Giving Opportunities

  • Center for Disaster Philanthropy:  The CDP helps disaster-affected communities move beyond immediate relief needs in order to help them rebuild more quickly and become more resilient for the future. The Typhoon Haiyan Recovery Fund will focus on medium- and long-term rebuilding, such as rebuilding lost livelihoods and helping the hundreds of thousands of people who will be left without permanent shelter. UPDATE: CDP’s giving site now allows direct giving to the Haiyan relief fund, earmarking donations for Haiyan relief only.  How to support CDP’s Haiyan relief fund.

“Building Back Better”: Know that needs will evolve and change

Many donors are drawn by immediate needs. Addressing urgent issues—such as medical care, food, and emergency shelter for survivors—is essential. However, many of the highest impact opportunities may come from “building back better” and prevention and mitigation efforts such as expanding safe shelter in areas prone to such natural disasters. The same groups of people – the poorest and most vulnerable – get hit the hardest with each new disaster. They are the least able to rebuild what they have lost. If there is no sustained and deliberate effort to rebuild for prevention, these groups will continue to bear an unfair—and largely preventable—burden.

Effective disaster philanthropy requires sustained attention to the evolving needs of a community. In the coming days and weeks, we will use this space to present high-impact opportunities that meet the needs of the communities hit hardest by Haiyan, highlighting groups whose work rebuilds for today, tomorrow, and the years ahead.  Revisit our How Can I Help? blog series to see our latest guidance, or send an email to to receive notices on the latest developments and how you can help.