Americans Less Generous in Japan Disaster Relief?

VIDEO: Half a million survivors still homeless after earthquake and tsunami.
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Two days after an earthquake ravaged Haiti last year, American citizens text-messaged more than $5 million in donations to the Red Cross disaster relief effort.

Five days after the quake, the agency had raised more than $92 million for the cause.

And ten days after the disaster in Haiti, Americans gave more than $57 million during a two-hour telethon hosted by George Clooney and MTV.

But a week after Japan was crippled by an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, there's no telethon on the horizon, and little sign Americans are giving as feverishly, or as generously, to international relief efforts as they have before.

Get the latest news on Japan's nuclear power crisis, radiation evacuation and the search for earthquake and tsunami survivors.

"There has not been a telethon, which is driving me crazy," said Wayne Elsey, CEO of Soles4Souls, a charity he created following the 2004 South Asian tsunami. Soles4Souls works with celebrities to collect and distribute shoes to people displaced by natural disasters.

"I'm not sure if it's fatigue, or if people don't see the magnitude of the problem, or they have other projects they're working on," Elsey said, "but there needs to be a bigger emphasis on this."

The American Red Cross said it raised $47 million for the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami response through Wednesday afternoon, including more than $2.6 million in donations via text messages. The amount is roughly half what it raised in the same period following the Haiti quake.

While several other prominent U.S.-based aid groups, including Catholic Relief Services, International Rescue Committee, and World Vision also reported raising hundreds of thousands of dollars each in the past few days, some have decided not to raise money at all.

CARE USA, Oxfam America and Doctors Without Borders all opted not to directly fundraise for the Japanese relief effort, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

And among Hollywood stars, Sandra Bullock is the only one so far to publicly donate a significant sum of money to the relief effort, giving $1 million to the Red Cross.

"With Haiti there was a lot of guilt about how poor the people were and how much suffering they endured. But with Japan, it's a rich country, their GDP is similar to ours, and in many ways the needs of their people can be met by the Japanese government and the systems they have in place," said Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a charity watchdog group.

"The point of charity is to address need. Japan is not making desperate pleas for aid, and charities aren't going to do rebuilding. That's going to be government and private insurance. So people need to balance this with the problems in the rest of the world, even in our own country which has been hit by the recession," he said.

Telethon for Japan?

Experts say Japan's greatest future needs may be akin to those endured by the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks, including need for psychological healing and infrastructure redevelopment, which don't often emerge until months and years after the immediate aftermath.

The American Red Cross, which made an initial $10 million contribution to the Japanese Red Cross Society, says it remains committed to playing a "critical humanitarian role and comforting the survivors."

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