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'Useless' High Heels, Handbags, Donated To Fiji After Disasters

To quote Clueless, 'I don't think they need your skis'.

16/01/2017 9:50 AM AEDT | Updated 16/01/2017 5:27 PM AEDT

In the aftermath of Cyclone Winston in Fiji, the docks were clogged with scores of shipping containers, but they weren't full of useful aid, they were stuffed with high heels, handbags and other unwanted donations.

There was so much stuff that aid workers were diverted from vital roles to sort it.

A report by the Australian Red Cross found Fiji received enough goods to fill 33 Olympic swimming pools in the aftermath of the March 2016 cyclone.

Australian Council for International Development Head of policy and advocacy Joanna Pradela said Australians should think before they donate.

National Disaster Management Office
Donations have to be sorted.

"The generosity of the Australian public is unwavering," Pradela said.

"When a disaster strikes, people's first instinct is to help in any way possible. But sometimes well-meaning actions do more harm than good.

"Sending unrequested goods has unintended consequences, like diverting relief workers and adding costs to an already stretched emergency response."

Pradela said donating money was often more practical.

After Cyclone Winston, sports gear, miscellaneous school books, chainsaws, carpets and woolly jumpers clogged up Fiji's airports and docks.Steve Ray

"Cash donations allow aid and humanitarian organisations to direct supplies to those most in need of assistance and easily adapt to people's needs as the situation unfolds," Pradela said.

Australian Red Cross disaster and crisis response manager Steve Ray agreed money was ideal, because it meant goods like tarpaulens could be bought from the community to assist traders getting back on their feet.

"When people give cash, aid agencies can help in the most effective way," Ray said.

UNICEF via Getty Images
Cyclone Winston caused damage tot he tune of half a billion dollars.

"After Cyclone Winston, sports gear, miscellaneous school books, chainsaws, carpets and woolly jumpers clogged up Fiji's airports and docks.

"Customs officials and relief agencies then have to sort, catalogue and assess these items, which takes time away from helping the people most affected. When you factor in shipping fees, storage and distribution, the costs far exceeds their value."


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