NDRF Members rescue two children in the floods in Kerala. (Photograph: NDRF twitter page)

Kerala Flood Relief: How You Can Help Kerala Get Back On Its Feet

As the state of Kerala witnesses the worst flooding in 100 years it will take months, if not years, for the state to rebuild itself. The effort will need a million hands and an estimated Rs 20,000 crore.

People across India have already risen to the cause - volunteering in rescue efforts and relief camps, donating money and materials towards those in need and urging others to do the same.

Many though may be confused about how best to help - whether their money is going to the right causes and when and how is the best time to step up?

GiveIndia is a donation platform and lists 200 NGOs that have been scrutinised for transparency and credibility. Its Chief Executive Officer Atul Satija explains how ordinary Indians can help Kerala and other affected regions get back on their feet.


#KeralaSOS

  • Over 300 people have lost their lives due to the floods in Kerala.
  • Over 5 lakh people have been displaced.
  • More than 70,000 kilometers of roads have been damaged.
  • There’s been extensive damage to crops and 2 lakh farmers affected.
  • The state is running over 2,000 camps housing over 3 lakh people.
  • Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has estimated the loss at over Rs 19,000 crore.

Misgivings About Giving? Clarified Here

How best can ordinary citizens help those affected by the floods?

Ordinary citizens can help in many ways.

1. Donate money: when disaster strikes, the first responders make the biggest difference, and they are often constrained by their ability to reach affected areas. Having a good source of funds to manage the logistics is critical, and donations of money go a long way in helping. It is also the simplest thing to do, and individuals across the world can be a part of the efforts.

2. Donate material: in the immediate aftermath of the floods, access to affected areas is a challenge. During this time people should engage in collection of material needed to be sent once relief shelters are operational and distribution of material can actually happen. It’s important to stay informed about the actual needs and supply material accordingly, rather than just picking a collection of random things.

3. Volunteer: If people are close to the affected areas they should volunteer to work with the relief agencies on ground. However, only do this if you are reasonably fit and have the basic skills that could help. Professionals like doctors, drivers, plumbers, electricians - can all make a difference.

If you are a coder, there are several open source projects that need support, and are driving great impact with mapping, support requests, rescue logistics and site maintenance and updation, like keralarescue.in, a joint effort between the Kerala IT mission and IEEE.

People outside the affected areas can volunteer with their local groups/NGOs that are running collection centers, or organising and communication of information. Answer the phone, keep track of requirements in affected areas, issue alerts and warnings as per official sources - these are all things people can help with.


Is it better to donate to the Chief Minister’s fund or to private efforts?

The government’s efforts will be towards large scale rescue -- co-ordinating with the armed forces and agencies, statewide operations, and managing issues that impact the entire state. NGOs, private entities and groups, would be focused on more localised efforts and material distribution, managing relief centers, racking rescue appeals and organising the community. Even later, during the rehabilitation stage, the government will be focused on large scale reconstruction and rehabilitation, while others would have more of a community approach.

The ideal way to help would be to contribute to both the Chief Minister’s relief fund, as well as to trusted organisations/groups, with a proven track record of disaster management, as well as post disaster operations. An individual may choose to give to the chief minister’s fund for the benefit of the entire state, while choosing a local impact project if they want to focus on a specific region.

Kerala Flood Relief: How You Can Help Kerala Get Back On Its Feet

Besides money is there any other way to contribute towards the relief and rehabilitation effort?

Some measures have been detailed in the first answer.

When it comes to donating material, requirements change fast, and in several cases there may be excess of some things and complete lack of others. Keep track of requirements for the areas you want to support. Supplement efforts by understanding what is in shortfall and act on providing those. For example: in several shelters there is enough food and clothing for children and adults, but shortage of sanitary pads for women, or baby formula for infants.

People in Kerala who are safe but want to help can do so by:

1. Not hoarding fuel or material more than they reasonably need

2. Helping provide extra gas cylinders to shelters, as cooking is tough with wet firewood.

3. Staying alert of their surroundings and providing information to the authorities if rescue or relief is required anywhere.

Many contributions have already been announced by the central government, other states and private entities. What if my donation goes to waste?

Recovery from disasters occur in three stages - rescue, relief, and rehabilitation. Right now all efforts are focused on rescue, but soon they will shift to relief and in the medium to long term, to rehabilitation. The overall damage is expected to be close to Rs 20,000 crore, and the true picture will be clearer once the water level subsides and people are able to take stock of the full extent of damage.

Helping Kerala recover from a disaster of this scale is going to take a long time, and involve many different government agencies, civic bodies, NGOs, corporates, and citizen groups.

As long as contributions are made to trustworthy organisations that are verified and have a good track record of work with disaster response, your money will always be useful.

You can find the right organisations to give to by checking GiveIndia’s listing of GiveAssured NGOs.

Is there an ideal time window for donations? Is now the right time - when most efforts seem focused on rescue? Should I wait till more information is available on the relief and rehabilitation requirements?

Giving is something everyone should inculcate as a habit. Wanting accountability for the money donated, and ensuring it is used most effectively and efficiently is a good practice.

Our recommendation would be to give as much as possible towards rescue efforts now because that can save lives now. Once rehabilitation works starts, understand the actual requirements on ground, do research around the impact you want to create for the long term, pick a project that is close to your heart, and then support them on an ongoing basis for their planned interventions - through money, time, guidance or just visibility.

Giving is a journey and everyone needs to find their own path to the right way to give.

What is GiveIndia doing to help Kerala? How did you decide which NGO/entity/effort to back?

We have a good track record of helping during disasters. This time, we had a multi-pronged approach to help those affected by the Kerala floods. The first thing we did was to identify the right partner who has an excellent track record of working in disaster recovery, and we decided to support the efforts of Goonj, who are a remarkable team of people doing amazing work.

Through our crowdfunding platform, LetzChange, we’ve raised over Rs 50 lakh in just a couple of days, from thousands of supporters. Many of these individual supporters are also starting their own personal fundraising campaigns to support Goonj. We expect to raise upwards of multiple crores to support Kerala.

We have also reached out to our corporate payroll giving partners, who have started drives to their employee base to raise funds. Several are running campaigns to match the donations so that the impact can be multiplied. Viacom18 has set up their own fundraising page and are running campaigns to promote it.

We’ve also received tremendous support from consumer tech companies. Flipkart has included our crowdfunding page in their app and website. Several other online companies have done outreach through their customer channels to support our efforts.

Through our monthly giving program, we are also launching a Rebuild Kerala initiative, where committed givers can sign up to contribute a small amount monthly towards the longer term rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts.

Finally, we have been highly active across our social media channels to provide timely information, support and guidance to those in need, and those who want to help.

If you are open and loud about your giving, you can inspire others and create a chain reaction of goodness.

Also read: Inside A Kerala Flood Relief Camp

Post Script
Several NGOs, local community groups and overseas organisations are at work in Kerala, here are a few resources that you can use to make your contribution.