The Red Cross relief effort was able to raise a staggering half a billion dollars following the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti that turned neighborhoods to rubble. The donations were above and beyond what was expected.
The Red Cross launched the campaign to fund project LAMIKA, which was tasked with building hundreds of permanent homes. Five years later only six homes have been built. So where has it all gone?
NPR and ProPublica began digging to see where the $500 million in funds disappeared to and what they found was dismal. A confidential Red Cross memo from program Director Judith St. Fort says “Serious program delays caused by internal issues go undressed. [Programs] are severely delayed apparently due to lack of staff and training procurement and HR.” She writes that the lack of leadership has caused “poor morale” among Haitian workers with many key employees resigning.
The memo goes on to say that senior managers disparaged the Haitian employees and implied that they were not talented or intelligent enough to handle the work.
The ProPublica investigation found that project spending was severely mismanaged. The Red Cross first took a cut of the charity money for its own administrative costs and then hired other groups to do the work. Each group that was hired took extra money to cover their overhead costs as well. The charity refuses to provide a list of specific programs it ran, so it is difficult to see exactly where money was spent.
In places where staffing problems, administrative fees and other groups skimming off the top were not a problem, the issue was blatant mismanagement. According to NPR: "The review also found that officials spent some of the money teaching residents to wash their hands with soap and water. The reviewers then note that the residents do not have access to either soap or water.”
Haiti still has a long road to recovery and it is unfortunate that the Red Cross couldn’t do more to help pave it.
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