Thursday June 04, 2015

US Red Cross raised half a billion to help rebuild Haiti, only built 6 houses: report

A man sweeps out the earthquake-damaged Santa Ana Catholic church, on Jan. 12, 2013 - three years after the disaster.

A man sweeps out the earthquake-damaged Santa Ana Catholic church, on Jan. 12, 2013 - three years after the disaster. ((AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery))

Listen 6:54

At times of tragedy and disaster, many well-meaning people turn to one place to help: the Red Cross. Now, an investigation into the relief organization is raising questions about how donations are being spent. 

After an earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010, the American Red Cross raised almost half a billion dollars, promising to help rebuild and develop brand new communities in the country. But according to a new investigative report, none of those communities were ever built.

"A lot of the money was wasted; a lot of the money never made it to Haiti. For example, the CEO of the American Red Cross said early on their focus was going to be permanent housing. Yet, now more than five years later, they've only built six permant homes in Haiti," explained Justin Elliott, a reporter with ProPublica, a non-profit investigative team based in New York.

Mr. Elliott did say the Red Cross did contribute money to food aid, housing repairs and built several hospitals. But he could find almost no evidence of permanent housing. He travelled to Haiti earlier this year but never saw the six homes in person, just in pictures. 

Mr. Elliott said there were several reasons for the organization's ineffectiveness, including mismanagement, overhead costs, and a lack of Haitian personnel and expertise.   

The American Red Cross issued a statement, stating the funds it raised for relief efforts in Haiti helped build and operate eight hospitals and clinics, helped stem a deadly cholera outbreak, provided clean water and sanitation, and moved more than 100,000 people out of make-shift tents into safe and improved housing.

In 2010, the Radio-Canada program EnquĂȘte investigated troubling working conditions for construction workers hired by the Canadian Red Cross in Indonesia after the tsunami in 2004. Click here for that story