It’s a popular myth that the British Red Cross spends more money on international disasters than emergencies at home – but it’s not true.
“Why does the Red Cross raise money for disasters overseas but not here?”
This question, or some variation of it, is asked every time there’s a large-scale emergency in the UK – such as the current flooding in the south west of England.
To be fair, you can see why people would ask. Last year, our major appeals for Syria and Typhoon Haiyan were plastered all over TV screens and newspapers. And yet there hasn’t been a single advert asking for donations to help British flood victims. Why not?
There are two main reasons. First, as a British charity, we already have general funds in place to deal with emergencies in this country. Helping people in the UK is our core duty and one we take very seriously.
Secondly, we’re lucky enough to live in a country that is never hit by catastrophic disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones.
Our existing funds usually cover the cost of responding to major emergencies in the UK, so we don’t need to appeal for donations. It’s fair to say a lot of our work here goes on ‘under the radar’.
Let me give you an example. In Somerset, the Red Cross is currently pulling out all the stops to help people caught up in the flooding.
Our volunteers are distributing food and hot drinks, giving out blankets, running rest centres and checking on vulnerable residents – and we’ll stay there till the crisis is over.
But, terrible as the floods have been for all those involved, the actual cost of all our work there will be tens of thousands of pounds, which we can afford from our general funds.
Now, consider Typhoon Haiyan. One of the worst storms ever recorded killed more than 6,000 people, wiped entire communities off the map, and has left millions with literally nothing to eat and nowhere to live.
The cost of tackling such a huge disaster will likely run into the hundreds of millions. That’s why the British Red Cross immediately launched a loud and wide-reaching emergency appeal (which, incidentally, brought in £10 million from the generous public).
This is the point: you’re always more likely to hear about our work during big international emergencies, because the huge costs involved mean we have to make a big noise to attract donations.
Response at home
But remember: while you may not read (or hear) quite so much about our work in this country, the Red Cross works tirelessly all year to help people caught up in emergencies. And, you might be surprised to learn, we spend more money doing it here than abroad.
Last year, the British Red Cross spent £28.1 million on responding to emergencies in the UK. During the same period, we spent £25.7 million on our emergency work overseas.
Every year, we help thousands of people overseas – but as the British Red Cross, we never forget our responsibility to look out for people here at home. Whenever people are in crisis in the UK, you can be assured our volunteers will be there if needed.
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