Flattery: The Red Cross's failings in Haiti

BY NEIL FLATTERY | JULY 01, 2015 5:00 AM

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ProPublica published a report last month revealing that the American Red Cross raised more than $500 million following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Yet, the agency built only six permanent homes. 

Internal issues, mismanagement, and a failure to train foreign volunteers properly about the culture and language of Haiti plagued charitable initiatives in the poverty-stricken nation. Attempts by the Red Cross to defend its relief efforts in the country have been thoroughly debunked by ProPublica and also by Haitian government officials.  

Fundraising efforts by the Red Cross for its work continued indefinitely, following the earthquake with no intentions of stopping once a goal was reached. A large portion of these donations helped to relieve the agency of its $100 million deficit. Charitable organizations, especially the American Red Cross, need to be more transparent with the millions of dollars of donations they receive following crises.

In the village of Campeche, Haiti, residents remain living in shacks built with old, rusty sheet metal even though this area was the focus of an ambitious project aimed at “transforming” the poor community.  Millions of dollars were pumped into this project, but no tangible benefit to the people of the community can be observed today, according to ProPublica.

First and foremost, the Red Cross has a duty to assist those in the best capacity it sets out to help. However, it also has a duty to the people who donate large amounts of money to ensure that the money can be traced to an actual benefit to the people around the world who are in the most need. 

In the case of the Red Cross, that it may have tried to help does not cut it. It received far more donations than any other charitable organization for this crisis and should be held to a higher standard. Six permanent homes in a three-year span with over a half billion dollars does not meet that.

The Red Cross contended that it helped more than 4.5 million in Haiti “get back on their feet.”  The organization has provided no evidence to support this claim, and ProPublica’s report seriously contradicts it. 

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, the leader at the time of the earthquake, called this claim “not possible,” considering Haiti is only a country of 10 million. If the Red Cross did not help vast numbers of people and were not building permanent homes, then where did all the money go?

At least $100 million went to get rid of the organization’s large deficit that it incurred following Hurricane Katrina, and most of the other money was undoubtedly lost in its bloated bureaucracy filled with internal chaos.

It is the responsibility of these international charitable organizations to be transparent in regards to where contributions are going. However, as a donor, check to see if the charity is registered under the National Association of Charity Officials or if it is deemed trustworthy on Charity Watch or Charity Navigator. It is imperative that people’s money goes to help the people around the world who need it the most, not to help finance an organization.

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