World
How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes
Even as the group has publicly celebrated its work, insider accounts detail a string of failures
 
The neighborhood of Campeche sprawls up a steep hillside in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. Goats rustle in trash that goes forever uncollected. Children kick a deflated volleyball in a dusty lot below a wall with a hand-painted logo of the American Red Cross.
 
In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor area, which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the project — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.
 
Today, not one home has been built in Campeche. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.
 
The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the quake, nearly half a billion dollars. 
 
The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, emails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success.
 
The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six. 
 
After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.
 
Aid organizations from around the world have struggled after the earthquake in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. But ProPublica and NPR’s investigation shows that many of the Red Cross’s failings in Haiti are of its own making. They are also part of a larger pattern in which the organization has botched delivery of aid after disasters such as Superstorm Sandy. Despite its difficulties, the Red Cross remains the charity of choice for ordinary Americans and corporations alike after natural disasters.
 
One issue that has hindered the Red Cross’ work in Haiti is an overreliance on foreigners who could not speak French or Creole, current and former employees say. 
 
In a blistering 2011 memo, the then-director of the Haiti program, Judith St. Fort, wrote that the group was failing in Haiti and that senior managers had made “very disturbing” remarks disparaging Haitian employees. St. Fort, who is Haitian American, wrote that the comments included, “he is the only hard working one among them” and “the ones that we have hired are not strong so we probably should not pay close attention to Haitian CVs.”
 
The Red Cross won’t disclose details of how it has spent the hundreds of millions of dollars donated for Haiti. But our reporting shows that less money reached those in need than the Red Cross has said. 
 
Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work. Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management. Even on the projects done by others, the Red Cross had its own significant expenses – in one case, adding up to a third of the project’s budget.
 
In statements, the Red Cross cited the challenges all groups have faced in post-quake Haiti, including the country’s dysfunctional land title system. 
 
“Like many humanitarian organizations responding in Haiti, the American Red Cross met complications in relation to government coordination delays, disputes over land ownership, delays at Haitian customs, challenges finding qualified staff who were in short supply and high demand, and the cholera outbreak, among other challenges,” the charity said.
 
The group said it responded quickly to internal concerns, including hiring an expert to train staff on cultural competency after St. Fort’s memo. While the group won’t provide a breakdown of its projects, the Red Cross said it has done more than 100. The projects include repairing 4,000 homes, giving several thousand families temporary shelters, donating $44 million for food after the earthquake, and helping fund the construction of a hospital.
 
“Millions of Haitians are safer, healthier, more resilient, and better prepared for future disasters thanks to generous donations to the American Red Cross,” McGovern wrote in a recent report marking the fifth anniversary of the earthquake.
 
In other promotional materials, the Red Cross said it has helped “more than 4.5 million” individual Haitians “get back on their feet.” 
 
It has not provided details to back up the claim. And Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister at the time of the earthquake, doubts the figure, pointing out the country’s entire population is only about 10 million.
“No, no,” Bellerive said of the Red Cross’ claim, “it’s not possible.”
 
 
This story was co-published with NPR. Mitzy-Lynn Hyacinthe contributed reporting. 
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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60 lakh UANs activated from 4.17 crore active PF users: Official
Citing a lukewarm response from companies in implementing Universal Account Number (UAN), the union labour ministry has said that only 60 lakh UANs have been activated so far from an active base of 4.17 crore provident fund subscribers.
 
Making it mandatory for the conversion of existing Provident Fund accounts into UANs was under consideration of the authorities, said V. Vijaya Kumar, an additional central provident fund commissioner for West Bengal, North-East and Jharkhand.
 
"I find that the employers are lethargic in converting their employees' provident fund (PF) accounts into UAN," he said.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in October 2014 launched UAN for provident fund subscribers, which would enable them to link their PF accounts to this number. This would, in turn, ensure easier portability and ease in transfer of money directly to employees' bank accounts.
 
"The situation is particularly of concern in eastern India, where the conversion is low. In Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru and other prominent cities, where corporate culture is well rooted, the response has been good," he said while talking to reporters on the sidelines of an event organised by Indian Chamber of Commerce here.
 
Only 1.75 lakh of the 35 lakh active provident fund users in West Bengal had opted for UAN till now, the official added.
 
He said that the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) had been conducting several programmes to spread awareness about UAN and address concerns raised by employers.
 
Asked if the centre was considering signing more social security agreements with foreign countries, Vijay Kumar said, "Talks are on with another 22-23 countries, mostly in Europe, to conclude such agreements."
 
According to data from ministry of overseas Indian affairs, India has signed social security agreements with 18 countries, mostly in Europe. However, only eight of them have been implemented so far.

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6,000 Indonesians evacuated over risk of volcanic eruption
Indonesian authorities evacuated around 6,000 people living on the slopes of Mount Sinabung on Sumatra island, after raising the alert over increased volcanic activity, National Agency for Disaster Management said on Wednesday.
 
The volume of lava at the top has increased by more than three million cubic metres and was “unstable”, said the agency in a statement.
 
"There is a risk for the collapse of the dome followed by block-and-ash flows as far as seven km to the south-east," said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the agency spokesperson.
 
In February 2014, 16 people were killed after this volcano erupted, which has been particularly active since September 2010.
 
Mount Sinabung erupted for the first time in August 2010 after remaining calm for 400 years.
 
More than 25,000 people had to be evacuated between 2013 and 2014 due to repeated eruptions of lava, rocks and ash.
 
At least 2,000 of the evacuated people continue to remain in temporary camps.
 
Indonesia sits on the Ring of Fire in the Pacific Ocean, an area of high seismic and volcanic activity, that is home to more than 400 volcanoes, of which at least 129 are active and 65 are considered dangerous.

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