Canadian Red Cross assures Hurricane Matthew donors after Twitter backlash

Some people on social media are urging potential donors to rethink giving money to the Red Cross for Hurricane Matthew relief efforts in Haiti after the American branch of the organization failed to deliver on promises after the earthquake in 2010.

ProPublica report showed American branch didn't live up to promises

People walk along a street in downtown Jeremie, Haiti. (Logan Abassi/UN/MINUSTAH)

The Canadian Red Cross is trying to assure potential donors their money will go to help Haitians in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, distancing itself from online vitriol for the American Red Cross.

Some people on social media are urging potential donors to rethink giving money to the organization after the American branch failed to deliver on its promises after the earthquake in 2010.

7.0-magnitude earthquake killed more than 200,000 people in the country and did billions of dollars in damage. The American Red Cross raised nearly half a billion dollars with the promise to provide aid and help rebuild communities. But, according to a special report by ProPublica and NPR, only six permanent homes were built.

The report highlighted various issues that contributed to the organization's ineffectiveness on the ground including mismanagement and the over-reliance on foreigners who could not speak the language.

"Money given to the Canadian Red Cross will be managed by the Canadian Red Cross," said Stephane Michaud who runs the emergency response operations for the Canadian Red Cross in Ottawa.

He said the organization is not connected to its American counterpart and money donated by Canadians for Haiti will go directly to the country. The Canadian Red Cross is hoping to raise $7 million for Hurricane Matthew relief efforts in Haiti. 

"We will respect what we call donor intent. For example, a dollar given to Haiti will never be used for another disaster or a conflict somewhere else," he said.

The Canadian Red Cross has been responding to tweets about the American controversy with a link to its donor report detailing its response to the earthquake in Haiti.   

The ​American Red Cross admits to building only six homes, but the organization said the low number is because the houses were part of a pilot project and there was a reassessment of their long-term shelter plans. The organization said it provided over 6,000 transitional homes for nearly 31,000 people and more than 5,400 households received rental subsidies to help them move out of camps.

But it appears the damage to the organization's reputation is already done.

Links to ProPublica and NPR's 2015 report are recirculating on Facebook and Twitter, causing many to question whether the organization can be trusted to help Haitians after Hurricane Matthew. On one southwestern peninsula alone, officials say at least 30,000 homes were destroyed and an outbreak of cholera is adding to the number of fatalities.

"Cholera has been present in Haiti since 2011 [and] was starting to spike before this hurricane and spikes every time there's rain so you can imagine what a metre of rain is doing," said Michaud.

Haitian-Canadians looking to help 

Michaud said the Canadian Red Cross has a strong record of providing immediate support in Haiti.

"The data speaks for itself. Two thousand patients were seen and treated for cholera in the first weeks of the cholera outbreak," he said.

Mae-Lyna Beaubrun-Fleury says Haitian-Canadians will find a way to send money back home to support relief efforts after Hurricane Matthew. (Idil Mussa/CBC)

"Hundreds of thousands were assisted by the Canadian Red Cross, with life-saving needs, after the earthquake and we have built 7,500 hurricane resistant shelters all around the affected areas in Haiti. There's been no report of any of these houses being damaged by the recent hurricane."

Meanwhile, many Haitian-Canadians are not letting the controversy surrounding the American Red Cross stifle their attempts to raise money to help those back home.

"There are multiple means to donate. Not only through the Red Cross" said Mae-Lyna Beaubrun-Fleury, whose family is from Petit-Goâve. 

"As a Haitian people...we're very generous and caring of those who are in Haiti. We're constantly giving. Either sending money, sending either food or material goods. I am 100 per cent sure that people are going to continue to do that...and they'll make even more sacrifices to give."