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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Is Your Opponent Even Alive?
A path-breaking judgement of the Bombay High Court can help all litigants on unending cases where they do not know if the opposite party is dead or alive
 
Prof Kelwadi is an advocate. He teaches law. A good friend, he was the advocate mentioned in an earlier article on judicial delays; the one titled, “Delays: Advocates, Judiciary or the Public To Blame?” The great news is that he has succeeded.
 
For those who did not read that piece: a recap. A man got an ex parte order of ownership of a plot of land. He had produced a power of attorney (PoA) of a person whom no one had seen. The question was whether that person really existed. Prof Kelwadi came into the picture when a wada-pav stall had already been put up on the plot. He asked for ‘proof of life-in-being’. Simply put, “Where is the man?”
 
We had asked readers to solve that problem; a conundrum, we called it. The problems that advocates often face are that judges prefer to err on the side of caution. Whether it is a bail application, or a title dispute, no one wants to rock the boat. Little wonder that Lord Denning referred to them as “…those timorous souls.” To quote another of my favourite judges, Justice Cardozo of the USA, “…there are two qualities that a judge should have; honesty and courage.”
 
Prof Kelwadi asked for relief. He applied with these words, “…the Plaintiff’s surviving power-holder and advocate are both guilty of perjury, of misleading the Honourable Court, of malicious prosecution, of obstruction of justice, of delaying resolution of litigation with ulterior motives and of causing the Defendants untold harm and misery; amongst other misdemeanours, civil and criminal. It is now incumbent on the Honourable Court to extract a sworn affidavit from the power-holder and advocate that the Plaintiff is still alive. Also necessary is an explanation of why this mischief has been perpetrated on the Honourable Court and truthfully, as to when the Plaintiff died. Any proceedings held in this Honourable Court since the death of the Plaintiff are invalid, and non-est.”
 
The court granted his prayer verbatim.
 
Fortunately, we do have judges who go beyond the call of duty and take bold decisions. Prof Kelwadi was lucky to appear before one of them. So, what does this mean? Since it is the duty of the advocate to inform the court of the death of a litigant, this order puts the onus squarely on the lawyer’s shoulders. It means that he will have to file an affidavit regarding the state of his client; just as the power-holder must. It also means that hundreds of cases that have been going on for years after the death of the litigants will soon cease to exist. The word is ‘non est’. Finito, does not exist.
 
People in the know will ask why the legal heirs cannot now be taken on record. The answer is simple. The heirs did not inform the court of the death, which must be done within three months. They hid it from the courts. Remember the ‘Doctrine of Dirty Hands’? One cannot play around with the judicial system, no matter what the advice. The heirs too would be guilty of perjury. Hiding the truth, purposefully, is tantamount to lying. The Truth, THE WHOLE TRUTH, and nothing but the Truth. So help me God!
 
The order is a milestone in legal jurisprudence. It is path-breaking. And we are sure no court in the world will overturn it. How can it? The courts exist, primarily, not to give orders or judgements, but to determine the truth. This order wants the truth.
 
Those who have spent years in courts must ask themselves, “When was the last time I saw the other party?” If it has been more than a year, ask us for a copy of the order that Prof Kelwadi has obtained. AND USE IT. For all you know, you, too, may be fighting a ghost! When you succeed, thank the advocate and the system. Not many do.
 

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COMMENTS

Alok Tholiya

2 years ago

Excellent.

Uber continues to be banned in Delhi
US-based taxi provider Uber will continue to be banned in the national capital as the Delhi government rejected its fresh request for plying cabs.
 
The decision was taken after the city government found that Uber "failed to submit the sworn affidavit of complying with the ban order in letter and spirit".
 
Despite being banned, these taxi services continue to operate in the capital as the city government does not have the mechanism to block their websites.
 
The city government also turned down the request of Ola and Taxi for Sure app-based cab providers on the same ground.
 
Following the rape of a 25-year-old woman by a cab driver of the Uber taxi company in December last year, the city government had banned all app-based taxi services.
 
Last week, a Delhi woman accused a Uber cab driver of molesting her in neighbouring Gurgaon.
 
Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai had recently met representatives of Uber and Ola and told them to provide relevant information if they their wanted fresh licenses to be considered.
 
They were asked to provide full details of their drivers and vehicles.
 
On Tuesday, Rai had said the city government would ask the Centre to block the websites and apps of Uber, Ola and other app-based taxi services in Delhi.
 
"It is beyond our understanding why the Centre, despite being informed, is not taking action against these taxi services. These services are taking undue advantage of being app-based," he had said.
 
The taxi operators have been told that their fresh applications for licences will only be considered after they furnish affidavits agreeing to standard and stringent safety norms, particularly for women passengers.

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