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Sunday, September 3

A look back at Red Cross efforts in Haiti

"Where did the half billion raised for Haiti go? The Red Cross won’t say."

Below I'm featuring only the closing observations in a 2015 ProPublica/NPR report on Red Cross activity in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, which I stumbled across while looking at a report at ProPublica on flooding issues in Houston, Texas. 

I had posted an article some years back by AP reporter Jonathan Katz on the disturbing Clinton Foundation activities in Haiti. But I'd expected nothing less from the Clintons; the allegations about the Red Cross I found to be very surprising, very upsetting.

Although I'm not going to follow up on the report at this time, the closing observations provide at least part of the answer to the haunting question: Where did all the donation money go? 

How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes
By Justin Elliott, ProPublica, and Laura Sullivan, NPR
June 3, 2015
ProPublica

Even as the group has publicly celebrated its work, insider accounts detail a string of failures
[...]

But the reality is that less money went to Haiti than 91 percent. That’s because in addition to the Red Cross’ 9 percent overhead, the other groups that got grants from the Red Cross also have their own overhead.

In one case, the Red Cross sent $6 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross for rental subsidies to help Haitians leave tent camps. The IFRC then took out 26 percent for overhead and what the IFRC described as program-related “administration, finance, human resources” and similar costs.

Beyond all that, the Red Cross also spends another piece of each dollar for what it describes as “program costs incurred by the American Red Cross in managing” the projects done by other groups.

The American Red Cross management and other costs consumed an additional 24 percent of the money on one project, according to the group’s statements and internal documents. The actual work, upgrading shelters, was done by the Swiss and Spanish Red Cross societies.

“It’s a cycle of overhead,” said Jonathan Katz, the Associated Press reporter in Haiti at the time of the earthquake who tracked post-disaster spending for his book, The Big Truck That Went By. “It was always going to be the American Red Cross taking a 9 percent cut, re-granting to another group, which would take out their cut.”

Given the results produced by the Red Cross projects in Haiti, Bellerive, the former prime minister, said he has a hard time fathoming what’s happened to donors’ money.

“Five hundred million dollars in Haiti is a lot of money,” he said. “I’m not a big mathematician, but I can make some additions. I know more or less the cost of things. Unless you don’t pay for the gasoline the same price I was paying, unless you pay people 20 times what I was paying them, unless the cost of the house you built was five times the cost I was paying, it doesn’t add up for me.”

***
This story was co-published with NPR. Mitzy-Lynn Hyacinthe contributed reporting. Design direction by David Sleight, production by Hannah Birch.

Read about how the Red Cross botched key elements of its mission after Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac in PR Over People: The Red Cross' Secret Disaster. And about how the Red Cross' CEO has been serially misleading about where donors' dollars are going.

If you have information about the Red Cross or about other international aid projects, please email justin@propublica.org.

[END REPORT]

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