Donating money for the victims of the Myanmar cyclone and the Chinese earthquake has not been an easy sell. Americans have given $12.1 million so far to the Myanmar cause, compared to the $1.92 billion that was collected for the 2004 Tsunami, and $5.3 billion for Hurricane Katrina. Donation amounts for China are not yet known.
One AP writer suspects that Americans have come down with "disaster fatigue." The article explains that the more bad news there is, the less likely Americans are to give. Americans, who unconsciously clump distinct occurrences as "faraway disasters" may feel helpless when hearing of mounting, and incomprehensible death tolls. Thus, by competing to be disaster of the moment, China and Myanmar have unknowingly dissuaded charitable individuals.
There may be other factors leading to a light trickle of donations. For some other explanations, read more.
China and Myanmar are isolated countries, which restrict international access. Their governments, a communist oligarchy and military junta respectively, may make Americans weary that their money could end up in the wrong hands. The lack of journalistic access, combined with other dominating stories such as the presidential campaign, may also prevent the cyclone and earthquake from being the hot issue of the moment.
Or maybe Americans could picture themselves as a beach tourist in Thailand back in 2004 or resident of New Orleans, but are having a hard time empathizing with the most recent victims in China and Myanmar.
Do Americans have disaster fatigue, or are there just too many other bills to worry about at home? Can the fatigue notion be applied to other issues, such as the Iraq war? As we hear more bad news, are we tempted to turn a deaf ear?