The world is gasping as Australia faces a national crisis in the form of unprecedented levels of destruction caused by wildfires that have claimed the lives of at least 25 people and over 1,500 destroyed homes. NPR is reporting that fire officials in New South Wales said this morning that 69 fires remained uncontained, with a total of 136 fires in the state. Ecologists at the University of Sydney estimate that up to 480 million animals may have perished, including up to 8,000 koalas. And smoke has covered busy metropolitan areas, such as Sydney and Melbourne.
The cause? The Climate Council, an independent, community-funded climate organization, points out that we're now dealing with more dangerous, longer brushfire seasons, drought, drier fuels and soils, and record-breaking heat as a result of the climate crisis.
Given the enormous devastation, a $1.4 billion bushfire recovery fund has been created to help residents, businesses and farmers, according to an announcement from Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The country also needs other aid sources and to cover the high cost of fighting the fires. Morrison said, "Whatever it takes, and whatever it costs, we will ensure Australians get the support they need to rebuild and recover from these bushfires."
Here, several ways you and your family can help.
Support the firefighters
The majority of the fires are being fought by volunteer firefighting services. And over the past month, American and Canadian firefighters and fire experts have been flown to pitch in. According to the BBC, approximately 3,000 firefighters are on the ground every day battling blazes.
A few ways to support the firefighting efforts:
- Visit the NSW Rural Fire Service donation page to support the firefighters in New South Wales.
- The Country Fire Authority is the state of Victoria's rural firefighting service. Donate here.
- Donate directly to The Country Fire Service in South Australia.
- To help support firefighters in the state of Queensland, donate to the Rural Fire Brigades Association.
Thank you to our 🇺🇸 mates flying out Monday to join more than 100 brave US firefighters helping battle the devastating Australian bushfires. We are grateful all you are doing, alongside our 🇦🇺 firies & volunteers & for the many messages of support from friends across the US 🇦🇺🇺🇸 https://t.co/sRvVxu6ODD— Australia in the US 🇦🇺🇺🇸 (@AusintheUS) January 5, 2020
Donate to relief and recovery funds
In addition to Australia's Red Cross Disaster relief and recovery fund, which helps support evacuation centers and recovery programs for the affected communities, here are a few more funds and organizations that could use donations:
- A GoFundMe page has been set up as a relief fund for First Nations communities to offer "culturally sensitive, specific direct support to some of those communities with critical costs to cover expenses."
- You can donate to the Victorian Brushfire Appeal, which will give money to those in need and directly affected by the fires.
- Donate on the Salvation Army's disaster appeal donations page, set up to deliver support to local communities affected by the blazes.
- You can donate on Foodbank's Victorian relief effort site, which is getting relief to communities lacking power and food.
- Give to the St. Vincent de Paul society donation page, and funds will go toward supporting people on the ground in rebuilding, providing food and clothing and emotional support.
- You can donate to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal to the FRRR, which will provide longer-term support for affected communities.
Give funds to aid wildlife
- Vets Beyond Borders is one of the most recognized international animal health charities in Australia, delivering life-saving and life-changing care to animals affected by the fires. You can donate and support their efforts here.
- The World Wildlife Fund is taking donations to help support conservation activities, particularly related to koalas. The funds will also provide emergency care during the fires.
- You can give to Zoos Victoria's Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund which funds emergency vet assistance and "scientific intervention." Donate to the fund here.
- The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is raising money to search for and protect koalas. You can donate on their GoFundMe page.
- The Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park is taking donations to help with vet costs, koala milk and extra enclosures on their GoFundMe.
- The RSPCA bushfire appeal is used to protect the pets, livestock and wildlife affected by bushfires, helping evacuate animals from disaster zones.
- You can donate to the organization WIRES, an Australian wildlife rescue organization.
- Donate to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital's GoFundMe, which has rescued and treated dozens of koalas suffering from severe burns. The hospital is using donations to install automatic drinking stations in burnt areas to help wildlife searching for water and to establish a wild koala breeding program to ensure the survival of the species.
- You can run online searches via Chrome through Ecosia, which uses profits to plant trees where they're needed most to help reduce carbon dioxide load.
- In the U.S., contact your elected officials, and demand climate change action. If you're Australian, you can contact a member of Parliament at this link.