Red Cross under fire! Where’s the money for Haiti?


This video was posted on YouTube April 1 by teslakontrol, who wrote, “After the Red Cross released a two-month report saying that they spent $106 million in Haiti, I went to look for evidence that it was actually spent in Haiti.”

by Amadi Ajamu

As the Haitian people brace themselves for the hurricane and rainy season with no shelter and no supplies for millions, the United States, France, Canada and other nations are attending the United Nations Donors Conference on Wednesday, March 31. At the conference, these wealthy nations will “donate” funds to over 3,000 non-governmental organizations, most of them headquartered in their own countries. They are in effect paying themselves.

The American Red Cross has already admitted to financing its own debt with donations given for Haiti relief. According to its official report on the first two months since the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, they collected over $354 million for Haiti but have spent only $106 million. Yet only half of the 1.3 million people made homeless by the quake have even a tarp as the rainy season begins.

Demanding an independent accounting, the Friday Haiti Relief Coalition protested at the American Red Cross headquarters in New York City on March 22. They’ll repeat that demand on Wednesday, March 31, at the United Nations in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 47th Street and First Avenue, during the Haiti Donors Conference at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Another key demand is that Haitians must determine for themselves how they want to rebuild their nation.

In Haiti, recent rain presages the heavy tropical downpours of the coming rainy season and the hurricanes that may follow. In addition to the nearly 300,000 who died in the earthquake or from their wounds, thousands more could die this spring from exposure and water-borne disease. Time is of essence. Shelter is needed now.

Where is all the money going? That was the burning question asked by the crowd that converged on the doorstep of the American Red Cross on March 22 led by the Friday Haiti Relief Coalition. The coalition was organized by the December 12th Movement days after the earthquake and has raised funds and delivered a tractor trailer full of water to Leogane, Haiti. A second trip is being planned now.

“We have been on the ground and we know the people are in need of shelter. The money collected by the Red Cross for Haiti is not getting there. We are tired of the excuses. That’s our blood down there and our money. We demand immediate shelter for our people,” said coalition member April Raiford.

Red Cross personnel nervously scampered back and forth as the protesters chanted, “Stop stealing the money! Where’s the money!”

Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement said: “We will keep organizing and mobilizing our people until the Haitian people get shelter and supplies. The American Red Cross has not been held accountable for the hundreds of millions they have collected in the name of Haiti and we won’t let them off the hook. They did the same thing during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The money donated to Haiti is for the people in Haiti, not the Red Cross CEO and executive bureaucrats. Haiti needs shelter now!”

The Friday Haiti Relief Coalition also has a committee looking into the possibility of a class action lawsuit against the American Red Cross. The coalition meets every Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Sistas’ Place, 456 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn, NY. For more information, call (718) 398-1766.

Amadi Ajamu can be reached at

Sheltering 1.3 million homeless Haitians, U.S. style

In a March 28 story headlined “Shelter plan emerging ahead of Haiti donor meeting,” Jonathan Katz writes for the Associated Press about the March 31 U.N. International Donors Conference:

“Shelter is likely to be the dominant issue at a critical U.N. conference Tuesday in New York, where aid international aid donors are considering about $11.5 billion in aid requests.

“Some 1.3 million people lost their homes in the Jan. 12 quake; hundreds of thousands are on the capital’s streets, hillsides and dangerous riverbeds with at most a tarp or flimsy wood between them and the sky.

“The new plan — now accepted by major international groups including U.N. agencies and the U.S. Agency for International Development — looks like this: Those who can will be encouraged to return to homes that engineers have deemed safe. Those who can’t will be given help removing debris so they can return to their own neighborhoods.

“Others will try to find host families for the time being. Aid groups will try to improve existing camps for those with no place else to go.

“Only a small number, as a last resort, may be moved to relocation camps.”

So far, according to the story, much of the $2.8 billion pledged by the U.S. has been spent on rubble removal so residents can return to “the (Port au Prince) neighborhood of Turgeau, a hilly, tree-lined zone of mansions — several home to U.S. Embassy employees.”

Some critics say the plan to send Haitians back to their ruined neighborhoods is to avoid the political power they can exert when large numbers live together. The current camps are self-governed by people’s committees.


  1. Well, as a white guy I am sure glad I didn’t give any money to the Red Cross. I gave at first to Bill Clinton’s Haiti Relief Fund but then switched to donating to I did so because they only send waterproof tents. I just don’t know what the holdup is with big organizations like the Red Cross giving out tents. How much was the Haitian President suppose to beg for tents?
    Maybe we should substitute the words “Red Cross” for “Brownie” as in ” You’ve done a heck of a job, Red Cross!”.

  2. This is ridiculous. They say the Red Cross has admitted to financing its own debt. Please show the proof. If these kids knew what they were talking about, they’d understand that money can’t just be applied directly to the relief effort without knowing how it has to be spent. They can’t just give any old tent to someone; imagine if the Jones family got a nylon tent with paisley print, and the Smith family got a cotten tent that was puke green. Doesn’t seem fair, nor practical, does it? Also, where are they supposed to put everyone? Many people have homes they could live in, but they choose to live in tents becuase they are afraid from all of the aftershocks. Not to mention, the port and the airports have diminished capacity even to this day, so getting relief supplies into Haiti has been a problem since day one. What’s more, with the rainy season and Hurricane seasons coming, there’s a huge concern for the spread of diseases such as cholera and diarrhea, when people are living in unsanitary, close confinments like in the tents. Just having a tent over your head isn’t a solution, at least not a permanent one.

    Also, the Red Cross has raised close to $400 million, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all of the money has hit their books yet. Plus, they are committed to staying in Haiti for the upcoming years, and need to program out funds that move from relief to rebuilding, a process which takes time, research, and coordination with other relief agencies. Why is all of your focus on the Red Cross? They aren’t the only people on the ground helping.

    This just kind of makes me sick to read. By implying that an organization trusted by the American public is appropriating funds for its whims and executives, you diminish what they are trying to accomplish. You can’t just pour money onto a problem and fix it. You need to understand a situation, work with all of the other organizations on the ground to determine the next steps, and only then can you start to find a solution. Don’t forget that this relief effort is being led by the UN – not the Red Cross!

    They should do some thorough research before they start making such bold claims!

  3. Stan,
    You should really do some research before you comment on stories you don’t understand. First, Haitian President Preval, as well as the rest of the government, has asked aid organizations here in Haiti NOT to give out tents, but instead to give tarps that can be easily reconfigured and moved. Whether or not that is a good decision is up for debate, but it was their decision nonetheless. Second, the Red Cross, and many other organizations have been giving out tents and tarps to those in the camps every day since the earthquake. There is no hold up, it’s just a process that needs to be coordinated.

    As for the article, we should all hope that we never work for a company run by Mr. Ajamu. The idea that you would blow all of your money in the first two months of a recovery that may take decades is ludicrous, and anyone implying anything different does not understand the concept of development. When I looked myself, I never saw a single article or statement pertaining to the Red Cross where they admitted to financing their debt with the money they raised for Haiti relief. The saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” resonates during times like this, but what we might all be able to agree on is that Mr. Ajamu’s knowledge of journalistic integrity may have been obtained in less than that.

    I’m not an aid worker, just a person who lives in Haiti and hates to hear ignorance regarding the work being done here. Of course it’s frustrating that not everyone has a roof over their head, but I will never chastise the organizations and people that have dedicated their lives to helping these people recover. And if we followed around every group of teenagers who decided to color some poster board and skip school to yell about things they don’t understand then, well, the news would be pretty boring in my opinion.

  4. American Red Cross Announces Spending Plan for Relief and Recovery in Haiti

    WASHINGTON, Monday, March 29, 2010 — The American Red Cross today announced its long-term recovery plan for spending the rest of the nearly $400 million it has received in Haiti donations.

    The announcement comes two days before an international donor’s conference hosted by the United Nations to discuss ways that governments and non-governmental organizations can help rebuild Haiti, which was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 12.

    “The crisis is far from over in Haiti, and the American Red Cross will continue to support the brave and resilient people of this country until the last dollar donated for Haiti is spent,” said Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross. “It would not have been possible to provide so much help in this extremely difficult situation without the tremendous outpouring of support from the American public.”

    To date, the American Red Cross has raised $396 million for the Haiti relief and development efforts. In just 11 weeks, the American Red Cross has already spent or allocated a record $106.4 million, with approximately 52 percent of the funds being used for food, water and relief supplies; 36 percent for shelter; 8 percent have been dedicated for health and family services; and 4 percent for livelihoods through cash grants and loans.

    Today’s announcement provided the broad outline of the expected plans of the American Red Cross for spending the remainder of that money over the next three-to-five years to support families and communities recover from this devastating tragedy.

    “The American Red Cross is committed to getting more aid to Haiti and its people as quickly as possible, and to do so in the most transparent and practical way possible to meet longer-term needs such as restoring water and sanitation systems, providing adequate shelter and creating sustainable livelihoods,” said David Meltzer, senior vice president for International Services at the Red Cross.

    Meltzer said that the American Red Cross expects to spend a total of approximately $200 million for emergency relief, such as the provision of emergency food supplies, tarps, tents, relief supplies, financial assistance programs and the initial transitional shelters – mostly in the 12 months following the earthquake. The remainder of the nearly $400 million raised to date, also approximately $200 million, will go toward long-term recovery over the following several years.

    The biggest share – expected to be between 35-40 percent – of the planned American Red Cross spending for the recovery period will be for shelter, with the effort undertaken in coordination with a number of other organizations working to provide shelter in Haiti. The Red Cross focus will shift from the current provision of emergency shelter materials such as hundreds of thousands of tarps and tents, to providing transitional shelters capable of lasting a few years and that offer more living space to residents and then, finally, to building permanent shelters. Plans to devote tens of millions of dollars to the provision of safe, durable, housing to Haitians depend upon the relevant authorities identifying land upon which the transitional and permanent homes can be built.

    Another top priority for the recovery phase—estimated to be approximately 20-25 percent – will be water and sanitation projects in Haiti. In addition, the American Red Cross plans to place a growing emphasis – estimated to be between 15-20 percent of the American Red Cross’ spending on Haiti’s recovery – on helping families rebuild their lives through cash grants, loans and other financial assistance that they can use to buy essential items and empower them as they work to rebuild their lives.

    Other spending areas in the multi-year American Red Cross plan will include developing health programs, building the capacity of the Haitian Red Cross to provide humanitarian assistance to the Haitian people, and helping Haitian communities prepare for future disasters such as floods, hurricanes and earthquakes.

    The allocations in the American Red Cross plan most likely will shift somewhat in the years ahead in order to be responsive to the fluid situation in Haiti and the evolving needs of the Haitian people.

    The American Red Cross relief and recovery plan is part of a broader coordinated effort with the global Red Cross network as well as with other aid groups. A recent preliminary assessment by the United Nations and World Bank estimated that it will cost $11.5 billion over three years to rebuild Haiti, an amount that is far more than any single organization can manage alone.

    Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Red Cross, will represent the international Red Cross and Red Crescent network at the U.N. Donor Conference on March 31. The international Red Cross and Red Crescent network will pledge its continued collaboration as part of the global effort to help the Haitian people, and also will call on the Haitian government and international community to find solutions to the lack of available land in Haiti for transitional and permanent shelter.

    “The needs in Haiti remain immense and the challenges are widespread – both in emergency relief and for long-term recovery,” McGovern said. “Help is reaching people, but we are especially concerned about a possible second humanitarian disaster, with makeshift camps containing hundreds of thousands of Haitians for whom it has not been possible to provide shelters capable of fully protecting them from the severe weather conditions of the rainy season or a hurricane.”

    The Red Cross network and other organizations have distributed hundreds of thousands of tarps and tents to more than 1 million people or roughly 75 percent of the estimated 1.3 million survivors without a place to live following the earthquake. Efforts are on track to get tarps or tents to the remainder by May 1st.

    In the meantime, the American Red Cross and other groups are working to mitigate the impact of the rains through disaster preparedness activities such as pre-positioning of relief stocks, replacing dug-in toilets with elevated ones, supporting communities along with the Haitian Red Cross volunteers to dig new drainage gullies and keep old ones clear, putting in place Early Warning Systems and looking for ways to establish safe havens.

    “We believe that coordination among the U.S. government, the Haitian government, UN and international NGOs is critical to maximizing donor dollars and getting aid to people of Haiti as efficiently as possible and the American Red Cross is committed to participating in such coordination efforts,” McGovern said.

  5. I second the comments of Elishe and “Living in Haiti” and add only this: To claim that the Red Cross is financing its debt with Haiti donations, without reasonable evidence, constitutes libel.

    There have been issues with distributions– they could likely be better coordinated, more equitable, and more efficient. Journalists should analyze the actual causes of inefficient aid, not make unsubstantiated accusations.

  6. Living in Haiti, there was an article some time ago titled ” Haitians want tents, not tarps “. You can read it at the website. I know the UN people were pushing tarps, but I will go by what the Haitian people seem to be saying.
    I do understand that the Red Cross needs some funds to operate between major disasters so allocating say 30% of donations for that purpose does not seem outrageous to me. In this case though it seems only a third of donations for Haiti has been spent on Haiti and it now looks like there will be a second wave of deaths occuring because of inadequate shelters due to the fast approaching rainy season.
    I do understand the need for moderate to long-term planning but that may be something of a mute point if a second Haitian holocaust occurs because of lousy shelter. I think that’s what these young people are upset about. It seems to me that individual donations should go to the short term needs because moderate to long-term needs are going to require the amount of cash that only governments can give, that’s what the big Donor Conference today was about.
    People are free to send their money wherever they like, if you want to donate to the Red Cross fine, that’s your buisness. As for myself I will send all my bi-monthly donations to


  8. Has anyone actually corroborated the accusation from SF Bayview that the Red Cross is spending Haiti donations on its own debt? I think we’d all like to know if it’s being reported anywhere else. Blatant accusations without proof, as above commenters have noted, help no one.

    Stan does have a point here. Perhaps the Red Cross is making an intelligent, strategic move by hanging on to some of the money, and Elishe is right that part of the reason that people are without shelter is because it has been so difficult to get supplies in. Having said that, it’s a valid question as to why only a third has been spent when there are still so many people without tents and relief workers have indeed been asking for tents. Is it a permanent solution? No. Will tents hold up against mudslides? No. But it is unrealistic to think that there will be any permanent housing solution before the rains begin, and having people under tents is better than having them with no shelter whatsoever. And to say that spending what they have will be “blowing all their money” implies that the donations have stopped, which is false, and it also implies that the $600 mil is all they have to spend, which is also false–it’s all they have that is specifically earmarked for Haiti, but they receive tons of unrestricted, non-earmarked donations annually, some of which could be spent in Haiti over the next decade if the money that *is* earmarked is not enough. The question isn’t so much about why they are holding onto money; it’s why are they holding onto *earmarked* money? Obviously earmarked donations are going to increase in the aftermath of a major disaster like this one, but the vast majority of the money that the Red Cross and other NGOs receive over the long-term is unrestricted. If they “blow” the $600 mil, they have quite a bit of unrestricted funds to fall back on.

    This is the article Stan was talking about, and it’s worth noting that one of the reasons that aid groups have given up on tents is that it’s too costly. Just throwing that out there.

    It’s also worth noting that Doctors without Borders (MSF) made a request only days after the quake that people stop donating money earmarked specifically for Haiti, because they determined that they had enough to keep their operations in Haiti running for the better part of a decade. Why is it that the Red Cross is so nervous about hanging onto earmarked money when MSF is certainly not turning donations away, but asking that they be unrestricted because they pretty much have their Haiti operations covered? The answer is that MSF is a more efficient organization. Charity Navigator has had MSF as a four star charity and the Red Cross as a three star charity since well before the quake–the Red Cross does great work, but I wasn’t the only one who chose to make my donation elsewhere. The Clinton Foundation got my money because I knew it would be spent more wisely.

    Journalism is about asking questions, and there are valid questions to be asked here and there is valid debate. To imply that an entire side of that debate is a bunch of dumb kids playing with markers and skipping around is just ignorant.

    I agree that this article is very irresponsible in making the accusation about the donations going to pay off debt without a source. ANY source, let alone a credible one. But don’t knock people for asking questions.

  9. I don’t care about what Elishe,
    jounalis and Lauren are saying the fact of the matter is that while the people of Red Cross are living like bourgeois in Haiti, the victims of the earthquake are living in the worst conditions under those tents. Yes we know that there are many other organizations on the ground but the Red Cross and other groups where saying to folks to be careful about who they are giving their money to (which is good to warn people and avoid being victims of scams)So the people who give to the Red Cross trusted them more than the others organizations and that is why folks are frustated about how the money is being used.

    We also know that the Red Cross alone wil not be able to come up with the estimated $11 b. needed for the resconstruction but they have collected enough money to help the country better then what they are doing now. Lets stop the blame game and lets urge the Red Cross to use the money wisely for the people of Haiti.

    They (Red Cross) are experts so they do not have the excuse not to do what need to be done well and in a rather short period of time. One thing is that while we are fighting, using useless rethoric and accusing each other, the people of Haiti desparetely need help NOW and not LATER. So often we hear that the Haitian government is corrupted but when it comes to NGO’s we also need to held them accountable for what they are doing and how they are doing only that way we’ll keep both side honest.

  10. I'm sure there are a lot of mistakes or misinformation in this article. The one simple mistake that is glaring to me is that the article states twice that the Friday Haiti Relief Coalition protested at the American Red Cross headquarters in New York City. The American Red Cross headquarters is in Washington, D.C., not New York city. If a simple mistake like this is in the article, how can I trust that any of the other information presented?

  11. I hope you never have to endure a house fire because you will feel like a real asshole when the Red Cross offers help, because you will feel terrible about the comments you made. It's attitudes like yours that are ruining this country… Go fuck yourself.


    An American Red Cross Employee in Disaster Services

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