Far too often, disasters strike the areas of the world that are least capable of handling them. Have you ever wondered who coordinates the disaster relief when an earthquake upends a struggling country, or a monsoon floods precious farmland in a developing nation?

Some of the poorest regions ravaged by disasters, like the Haitian earthquake of 2010 or the Tsunami of 2004, have gotten back on their feet thanks to an umbrella organization called the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

The DEC unites 13 humanitarian agencies to provide aid when the world’s poorest countries get hit by unforeseen tragedies.

Action Aid, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, Care International, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief, Oxfam, Plan U.K., Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision are 13 leading U.K. aid charities that work together, raising money for quick disaster relief deliveries.

The DEC has run 64 appeals and raised more than $1.8 billion dollars since it’s formation in 1963.

But not every disaster-ridden country receives aid from this conglomerate of humanitarian agencies.

According to the DEC, appeals are reserved for “major disasters and emergencies that cannot be dealt with by the usual coping mechanisms within affected countries and where DEC member agencies are in a position to respond quickly and effectively.”

A spokesperson for Oxfam explained, “We only intervene in countries where there is no infrastructure or resources and people would die if we didn’t go there.”

Because of their connections with major U.K. companies and broadcasters, DEC is able to keep costs low and deliver the greatest possible amount of aid. Less than 5 percent of appeal funding is  spent on fundraising, monitoring and reporting back to donors, and up to 7 percent of funds received by member agencies are spent on response measures other than directly helping the survivors of the disaster.

An example of a particularly effective response by the DEC was in 2010 when the monsoon rains in Pakistan displaced 12 million people whose homes were swept away or destroyed. The DEC Pakistan Appeal raised more than $120 million and was able to send 60 percent of the funds to Pakistan in the form of temporary shelters, blankets, cooking utensils and food.

Grace Flaherty

Sources: Express, DEC
Photo: DEC

As it happens, One Direction is not just another single-minded boy band dolling out love songs and capturing the hearts of teenage girls around the world. In fact, unlike most boy bands one may think of, One Direction is putting their worldwide status to good use by regularly participating in fundraising for a slew of causes. Indeed, their multiple efforts just last month is a cause for praise.

In early November, Liam Payne and Harry Styles joined the Y Combinator startup company, Prizeo, in a fundraising campaign that raised $784,345 to benefit cancer research.  Prizeo “relies on a raffle model where contributors get a single entry for every dollar donated, the grand prize being an in-person experience with the sponsoring celebrity.”  The One Direction grand prize was an evening out in London with Payne and Styles, while smaller perks included custom t-shirts, social media profile pictures, bracelets, photos and a One Direction sweatshirt signed by the group members.

The band also joined a Celebrity Telethon in support of Typhoon Haiyan survivors, where they officially launched the telethon via their Twitter account.  The event took place in London at the iconic BT Tower, where callers were able to talk to a famous voice and have their donations taken by one of numerous celebrity participants.  One Direction’s Liam Payne expressed his sympathy for the survivors, stating, “The pictures I have seen of little children in-between the ruins made my heart break.  All of us in the band are shocked by how many people need help, so we’re asking the public to continue to be as generous as they possibly can.”  The UK Disasters Emergency Committee raised £90,000 directly from the telethon, which helped raise their total Philippines Typhoon Appeal donations to over £44 million.

One Direction further hosted a portion of the BBC’s Children in Need charity event, where they performed their hit song “Best Song Ever” and also designed and personalized a special Pudsey Bear, which was auctioned off to raise money for the charity.  This year’s event raised over £31,124,896.

Just last week, group member Harry Styles garnered support for UNICEF by auctioning his unwashed shirt on the designer discount website  A Texas businessman made the highest bid, offering £3,002 for the shirt.

– Rifk Ebeid

Sources: Mirror, Forbes, Look to the Stars, Disasters Emergency Committee: Celebrity Telethon, Press Party, Disasters Emergency Committee: Stars Join Telethon, Twitter