Donations to Disaster-Hit Areas: Create System to Ensure Funds Reach People in Need

Since the Noto Peninsula Earthquake, many donations have been made to support the affected people and local governments. It is essential that such support be delivered promptly to those in need.

Various organizations have been accepting donations since the earthquake occurred. There are two main types of contributions. One is intended for affected people, with the funds distributed through the prefectures involved. The other is donated to organizations, which use the funds for such purposes as helping affected people and reconstruction work.

Ishikawa Prefecture, the prefecture hit hardest by the earthquake, has received ¥12.6 billion in donations meant for affected people as of Jan. 24.

Many people may want to support residents who are being forced to live as evacuees in the severe cold of the snowy region. However, this goodwill has yet to reach people affected by the disaster.

The Ishikawa prefectural government is reportedly scheduled to hold its first distribution committee meeting by early February, to determine the amount to be distributed after ascertaining the number of affected people and other factors. This work should be expedited so as to support people who have lost their homes and property.

In the future, similar delays may occur every time there is a natural disaster. The central government should consider a mechanism to ensure that donations intended for affected people are delivered to them promptly.

A large amount of donations have also been made to organizations. Donations through such means as crowdfunding campaigns with specific objectives, such as rebuilding the Wajima-nuri lacquerware industry, and through the use of the furusato nozei hometown tax donation scheme, are also spreading.

The advantage of this type of donations is that funds can be promptly put to use, as the recipient organizations can decide how the money will be utilized. The challenge is how to ensure transparency in the use of the funds.

Affected local governments are burdened to some extent with such tasks as issuing receipts for donations, and then the real priorities are not being taken care of if this leads to delays in donated funds reaching affected people.

The furusato nozei donation program has a proxy system in which clerical tasks related to receiving aid can be carried out by other local governments with which the affected areas have a friendly relationship. The city of Yufu, Oita Prefecture, for example, is accepting donations on behalf of Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture.

Online portals specifically for the furusato nozei program are convenient for people who want to make donations. A person may feel that they have made an actual donation if they decline to receive the gift that is normally sent, but this means that tax revenue that would have been paid to the donor’s municipality goes somewhere else.

The government and other organizations should consider creating a website specializing in donations related to disasters.

In addition to donations, the acceptance of human support must also be dealt with in the future. Such entities as prefectural governments — on behalf of exhausted municipalities — must hurry to secure bases from which volunteers can operate.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 28, 2024)