Katrina Donations Nearly Depleted; Much Aid Still Needed

Record donations collected by charities in response to last year's hurricane disasters are two-thirds depleted, according to a survey by The Washington Post. And while aid money raised by nonprofit organizations was the largest response in U.S. history, far surpassing the $2.8 billion contributed after the Sept. 11 attacks, many say what remains is insufficient for future rebuilding.

The recent survey tracked the $3.27 billion raised over the past six months in its outpouring to Katrina evacuees and victims for immediate relief in the form of cash, food, temporary shelter, medical care, tarps and school supplies. The remaining amount is to be directed toward rebuilding and reconstruction over the next few years - a stretch that will not be sufficient, according to recovery specialists.

"There are many, many needs that the federal government cannot cover," said Don Powell, named by President Bush as coordinator of the Gulf Coast's long-term recovery, according to the Washington Post. "It's not public works. It's not water, sewage or utilities. It's the soul of our life."

"Even if we doubled, tripled or quadrupled what we have, we still wouldn't be able to meet the need," added Gary Lundstrom, director of projects for Samaritan's Purse, the Boone, N.C.-based evangelical aid organization.

Katrina victims, meanwhile, are hoping that charities won't follow the sluggish federal response, which the White House acknowledged last week was botched.

Faith-based organizations, which have provided unprecedented aid and largely filled in the gaps left behind by federal assistance, control 56 percent of remaining donations, according to The Washington Post survey. They include The Salvation Army and Catholic Charities USA, both of which were at the top in receiving the largest share of donations, along with the United Methodist Committee on Relief and United Jewish Communities. Behind the American Red Cross, the Army raised $325 million, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Catholic Charities USA collected $154.46 million.

With homeowners and renters failing to qualify for government aid, charity groups are stepping in to fill in the holes. Habitat for Humanity's Senior Vice President, Ken Meinert, said they have been "swamped" with housing projects. Through Operation Home Delivery, Habitat is currently rebuilding 1,000 houses and hopes to raise more aid money for an additional 1,000 houses.

Along with failures of finding permanent housing and other resources, the storm-affected population is also seeing a lack of sufficient medical care, what Disaster Relief Manager for Operation Blessing, Jody Herrington, called a "medical crisis," much like that of a third world country.

And, as stated in a medical report by International Medical Alliance Director Dr. Dale Betterton and IMA President Dr. Dorothy Davison, "Not only is a free, primary health care clinic highly desirable and necessary, it borders on being essential for a burgeoning, ill population."

Last September, International Medical Alliance partnered with National Renal Alliance, LLC, to provide emergency medical relief to the more than 7,000 victims stranded in Long Beach, Miss.