How to Help Joplin Tornado Survivors

The devastating videos and photos of the tornado in Joplin, Mo., on May 22 — the deadliest in the United States in nearly 60 years — have left many Americans wondering how they can help the city’s citizens begin to recover from the destruction.

One thing you can do: Consider making a donation to the work being done in Joplin by AmeriCares, a non-profit emergency aid organization that provides crucial medical supplies, medicine, and other aid to emergency situations around the world and here in the United States.

AmeriCares is working with clinic partners, shelters and health care providers in Joplin and nearby Springfield. “The first 48 hours of an emergency are the most critical,” AmeriCares Vice President of Emergency Response, Ella Gudwin, said in a statement on their Web site. “AmeriCares pre-positions emergency relief supplies so we are ready to respond to disasters around the world and across the United States at a moment’s notice.”

AmeriCares, with which Everyday Health is partnering to support relief efforts in Japan and other health causes, has a disaster relief expert, Jessica Ginger, already on the ground in Joplin assessing emergency aid needs in the city of 49,000, which needs all the help it can get.

A state of emergency has been declared in Joplin, the Missouri National Guard is on the scene, and 40 agencies from four states have responded, according to AmeriCares.

The tornado, which was given the highest twister rating of EF5, has killed 122 people so far and left hundreds injured and homeless, according to city officials. About 1,500 people are still missing, and officials are afraid the death toll will increase as “the full scope of the destruction comes into view: house after house reduced to slabs, cars crushed like soda cans, shaken residents roaming streets in search of missing family members,” according to MSNBC.com.

The storm demolished Joplin’s high school and destroyed more than 2,000 homes and buildings, including the area’s major hospital, St. John’s Regional Medical Center, which had to be completely evacuated. The tornado left the building with shattered windows, crumbled walls, displaced patients, and medical records that were spotted as far as two counties away.

One of AmeriCares’ partner clinics, Community Clinic of Joplin, is now housing the clinic’s own director, whose home a few blocks down the street from the hospital was completely flattened. By day, she helps deliver medical needs to patients who were displaced from the hospital; by night, she sleeps in the clinic.

The first order of business for AmeriCares in the aftermath of the Joplin tornado is assessing the need for medical and relief supplies, including water — “we already have 62,000 bottles on hold and ready to distribute,” according to Gudwin — and medicines, blankets, hospital supplies, and nutritional supplements. “Chronic care medications, pain relievers and antibiotics are in short supply and have been identified as urgent needs,” Ginger wrote on the AmeriCares blog.