As the world reacts to Typhoon Haiyan and relief aid is sent to the Philippines, we hope that it will be provided generously and quickly – but also effectively.

It is all too often the case in humanitarian disasters that aid is badly targeted. This results in some efforts being duplicated while other priorities are neglected. For example, after the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, at least one child reportedly suffered the symptoms of measles because she had been vaccinated three times by three different organisations[1].

But coordination among government aid agencies and NGOs is possible. If all donors publish details of their planned and actual activities in real time, in an open, machine-readable format, these mistakes could be avoided. Transparency gives donors confidence that their money is used where it is most needed.

There are existing frameworks for sharing this information, including the International Aid Transparency Initiative. We ask and hope that all humanitarian relief organisations use this so those who are giving so generously now can be assured their money is making a difference.

[1] “In February, in Riga (close to Calang) we had a case of measles, a little girl. Immediately, all epidemiologists of Banda Aceh came in, because they were afraid of a propagation of measles among displaced people, but the little girl recovered very fast. Then, we realized that this was not a normal case of measles and we discovered that this girl has received the same vaccine three times, from three different organizations. The measles symptoms were a result of the three vaccines she received.”  El Pais (April 13, 2005, p. A2).