A lot of people are asking how they can support relief efforts to the Philippines, where Typhoon Haiyan has killed thousands and devastated the central part of the country. Great.

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Here's a suggestion, though: If you want to really help, give money to Filipinos directly, and not through foreign middlemen calling themselves charitable humanitarian organizations.

Macklemore has the right idea: He tweeted urging folks to support the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), after the Blue Scholars' Prometheus Brown—who is Filipino-American—suggested it to him. Some writer for Foreign Policy thinks there's something wrong with this. But the rappers are right.

Over at Humanosphere, longtime global health and development reporter Tom Paulson points out:

[Foreign aid groups] often end up competing with each other, while at the same time putting out urgent calls for donations. The dirty secret of the aid-and-relief business is that most organizations use high-profile emergencies to raise funds for the less dramatic ones...

I covered the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and witnessed the chaos of the emergency response in Sri Lanka. Chaos is inherent to disasters. But it was disconcerting to see certain well-known humanitarian organizations—who shall remain nameless–-arguing over turf and how high up they could hang their banners even as people around them were struggling to get adequate food, water and shelter.

I saw similar bullshit in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, where I reported for the better part of the following two years. Half of all American households donated to relief efforts and billions of dollars were pledged. But what happened on the ground was an utter fiasco. Locals, including government officials, were largely ignored. Cluster meetings hosted by the United Nations, where all these aid groups (Red Cross, UNICEF, Mercy Corps, World Vision, etc. etc.) were supposed to coordinate with one another, were literal clusterfucks. I wrote more about the failure of reconstruction efforts in Haiti earlier this year.

This is not to say that all aid groups are corrupt. And I respect the charitable impulse (solidarity efforts are even better).

But if you care about whether your donation actually achieves its intended purpose, keep in mind that you won't be able to personally track down where your dollar went. You don't have time, and foreign aid groups are far from transparent. Just about the only one I trust is Médecins Sans Frontières, which claims to do one thing (treat illness in difficult settings), spends the money it raises, and does it well. I have friends in Haiti who are alive thanks to MSF.

If you're interested in helping the Philippines rebuild from the typhoon's destruction, you're better off putting your money in the hands of Filipinos themselves. If you're interested in helping the Philippines avoid future typhoons of record-breaking severity, you could also, you know, fight climate change.