Why Did Canadians Give Less to Somalia than Haiti and South Asia Disasters?

The United Nations recently projected that 750,000 Somalis could die unless aid efforts are significantly increased.  The region is in crisis and millions of people are suffering the effects of years of drought, war and restricted access for aid groups. The world has been called upon to help. But did they?

The Globe and Mail looked at how Canadians’ donations to East Africa compared with its donations to other international humanitarian efforts. As it has done in the case of other urgent international aid efforts, the Canadian government offered to match the donations of Canadians for a specific time period. Here are how the numbers on the donations from individual Canadians stacked up:

  • $70 million to African drought relief (from July 6 to September 16, 2011)
  • $46.8 million to floods in Pakistan in 2010
  • $220 million to relief and reconstruction after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010
  • $230 million to help victims of the South Asia earthquake and tsunami in 2004

While final numbers do not appear to be available for Canadians donations to earthquake relief in Japan, one week after the earthquake in Japan, Canadians had already donated $10 million to disaster relief, whereas they had only donated $2.9 million within a week of the government announcing matching donations for East African drought.

In 2009, Canadians donated $7.75 billion to charities, which is an average of $250 for each person who filed a tax return.  The donations that have been made to these international development crises appear tiny next to the total annual contributions made. Are Canadian taxpayers doing their part when it comes to supporting those who are less fortunate than we are?

The relative amounts of money given to each of the disasters listed above raises some interesting questions about our ability and willingness to give.

  • The crises that happened around the Christmas/New Year’s period (Haiti, South Asia), seem to have received much more generous donations. Is it because people were at home, with their families, glued to the media coverage, whereas for disasters that happened in the summer (Pakistan, East Africa), they are outdoors or off on vacation?
  • Or is it because the Canadian government extended tax breaks for charitable donations into the next calendar year (i.e. allowing people to claim donations made in early 2010 on their 2009 tax return), which would give them a quicker return on the tax break than for donations made in the summer?
  • Perhaps we are also willing to donate more when we feel more confident that our donations will make it to the people who need them most. When political and bureaucratic corruption or war could keep donations from getting to the ground, people may be less willing to contribute.

What factors do you consider when deciding whether to donate and how much to donate?

Related stories:

Somalia is Dying. Why Don’t We Care?

UN: 750,000 Somalis Could Soon Die of Famine

The Real “F” Word (Video)

Photo credit: Oxfam East Africa


Lynda H.
Lynda Harrison6 years ago

Perhaps people in Canada are suffering "charity fatigue"!

Lynda H.
Lynda Harrison6 years ago

Perhaps people in Canada are suffering "charity fatigue"!

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Emma S.
Emma S6 years ago

In this country too (UK), people seemed much more willing to give to appeals for the tsunami etc than for the famine.The TV and other media also make a much bigger deal of stories where white folks are involved. ('No Britons were among the casualties' etc, as if some lives carried greater weight than others.) Are people 'famined out' or is it inherent racism?

Michele G.
Past Member 6 years ago

Now it's about who gave the most or the least money? For pity's sake, this is insane!

heather g.
heather g6 years ago

I know this article addresses Canadians' charity giving.
In general, I need to remind people that when any country provides $millions in charity money or development aid, etc. 90% of that money is paid out to it's own contractors supplying / installing / manufacturing in the country receiving the aid. The donor looks good in the eyes of the world and the wealthy corporations doing the work become ever wealthier.

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

wasn't the aid given to them stolen? so, by proxy donations will be given to their terrorists/pirates/who ever they are?

Christine Stewart

I think it is because we are all running out of money, so we have nothing left to give. Also, remember that the insane pricks in charge of many of the starving countries won't let aid workers in to the country to help the starving people. Where the heck is the money going to go even if it is donated? All bribes and black market goods?

Annie Urban
Annie U6 years ago

A note from the author of the article: This post is about the contributions of INDIVIDUAL Canadians, not the government (but some seem to have confused that). Also, I am Canadian (not just an American picking on my neighbour to the North).

Bruce Van Tassell

Remember who is the heartless and uncaring leader of Canada.