Why We Buy Local during Emergencies

11 April 2019

When a disaster strikes, our emergency response team responds as quickly as possible.

When a disaster strikes, our emergency response team responds as quickly as possible. We contact partner organizations, Church leaders, and our own staff to understand the effects of the disaster and what the local needs are. We often work to mobilize volunteers to help with cleanup efforts after a disaster. You might see them in yellow Helping Hands vests, distributing food, helping dispose of trash and debris, and repairing roofs and shelters.

These volunteers use wheelbarrows, tarps, and many other supplies to help people around the world. As a policy, we buy these emergency supplies locally whenever possible.

Benefits of Purchasing Local Goods

Local goods and supplies are purchased as close as possible to the emergency event. These supplies can include food, shelter materials, and cleanup supplies, among many others.

Purchasing goods locally has many benefits:

  • Local purchases can boost the economy where the goods are sold. Instead of shipping in goods from outside of the area or country, purchasing close to a disaster area benefits those local workers and companies.
  • Local goods are familiar to the people who live in the disaster area. This means they’re more likely to be helpful to and used by the recipients.
  • Purchasing locally reduces shipping costs and transport time. This allows for funding to purchase more goods and benefit more people.
  • Purchasing local goods doesn’t clog up airports, shipping ports, or roads. Those resources can then be used for other emergency needs.

In the United States and Canada, we stockpile emergency supplies in bishops’ storehouses. These supplies may or may not be purchased locally.

What about Donated Items?

Many well-meaning people want to assist during emergencies by donating clothing, food, comfort items, such as toys, and other supplies. Some people even hold drives where these items are collected for those in need overseas.

While we are grateful to those who donate their goods, donated items present the following challenges:

  • Transportation of items
  • Availability of airports, docks, and so forth for receiving
  • Shipping costs
  • Damage to or loss of items
  • Failure of items to meet the needs of those affected

There are occasions when we do ship specialty items that aren’t readily available in the countries where we serve. For example, following an earthquake in Nepal, we shipped family-style tents that weren’t available locally. In Yemen we responded to a need for specific medication that could be purchased only in Europe and then shipped into the country. In Tonga, a devastating cyclone knocked down trees and buildings all over the island. We shipped sawmills so locals could use lumber from the fallen trees to rebuild homes.

Accountability in Emergency Response

Our emergency response efforts are focused on delivering what people need, where they need it, and when they need it following an emergency.

We work to determine the best goods for those in need and the most efficient way of delivering help. When you donate to the Humanitarian Aid Fund, you can know that your donation is being used efficiently and conscientiously to help those in need.

To learn more about emergency response, visit the “What We Do” tab at our website.