Asian Disaster Response: DEC emergency hotline peaks at £1mper hour

Joe Gill

Around 600,000 people have made donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee through its website since the tsunami appeal was launched on 26 December, donating £37m out of the £100m received so far.

Some 1.6 million phone calls were made to the DEC hotline and 400,000 postal donations were received. At its peak, the DEC website was generating £1m every hour, 10 times more than it has ever received previously, according to a DEC spokesman.

Millions of pounds more have been donated directly to the individual aid agencies. The British Red Cross and Oxfam raised the most in their own right - £5.5m and more than £6m respectively.

The Big Lottery Fund announced a £12m donation to long-term reconstruction work in the disaster area and the Northern Rock Foundation donated £500,000.

But Medecins Sans Frontieres took the extraordinary step of suspending its appeal for funds after the "exceptional generosity" of its supporters. MSF said it already had enough money to provide emergency medical assistance to injured people and those in danger from infectious diseases in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Burma.

The DEC spokesman said that MSF's decision was unlikely to be repeated by DEC agencies as any money left over from the emergency phase would go into long-term development. "MSF knows that it is only going to be there for a few months, whereas the DEC agencies do rehabilitation, reconstruction and livelihood work that will last for years."

The spokesman said the generosity of the British public instilled "a duty to go back in three or six months' time and tell them how their money has been spent".

Donations to the tsunami appeal by interactive TV reached £870,000. The figure includes donations from viewers of the Community Channel, Sky News and Channel 4 after the Community Channel agreed they could share its interactive donation facility.

Corporate Britain has been chastised in the media for making donations that amount to a mere fraction of its profits. BP gave £1.6m; its profits last year were £9bn. Tesco pledged £250,000 worldwide; last year's profit was £1.7bn.

The Charity Commission issued a warning about scam fundraising on the back of the disaster. Some clothing collectors are distributing misleading leaflets asking for clothing and cash in areas including London, Lincolnshire, East Anglia and Essex, it said. Many of the organisations concerned are not registered charities.

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