Red Cross misuse of funds for Haiti sparks protest in 12 U. S. cities

By Earnest McBride

Jackson Advocate Contributing Editor

Haitian American organizers issued a series of complaints and called for strict accountability early last week over the misuse of over $11.6 billion in donated funds promised for post-earthquake relief in Haiti, a full year after the devastation occurred last January12.

Joining forces with national and local grass roots organization in 14 cities, the largest protest to date was scheduled for December 18 at American Red Cross Headquarters and select federal buildings in the targeted cities, including Jackson.

Because of snow storms in Ohio and floods in California, however, only nine cities were able to successfully carry out the protests, according to the organizers.

While a variety of organizations raised money internationally to feed, clothe, house and heal over 3 million Haitians directly affected by the earthquake, both the American and the International Red Cross have been the subject of the severest complaints.

Miami-based Fatima Mevs, spokeswoman for a large segment of the protesters, is herself a native of Haiti who has spent most of her life among the Haitian diaspora in the Virgin Islands and in Miami since 2003. She is the secretary of Miami N’COBRA (the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America) and a founding member of the Green Party Black Caucus in Miami, though she also sits on the board of national N’COBRA.

“Of all the money the Red Cross has collected,” Mevs, known among her cohorts as “Sister Fatima,” said in a telephone interview from Miami Tuesday evening, “I know of only one location where they gave out plastic bottles of water while providing no shelter or any significant amount of food.”

The Haitian-affiliated organizations have united to form Aiyti Se Nou, which translated from Creole to English is, “We are Haiti.”

The cry for accountability has plagued the Red Cross since it launched its first fund-raising campaign in January 2010, only days after the earthquake.

As early as January 18, 2010, bloggers raised the cry “do not donate to Red Cross” all across the Internet.

“Most of the money will never go to Haiti,” one said..”Instead, it will go to golden
parachutes of the Execs, their lavish jets and country estates and wilderness hunting lodges, all tax free “recreational facilities” that only the few top brass can use. Plus lavish retirement plans, bonuses and pay.

In March, 2010, while rallying in front of Red Cross headquarters in New York, hundreds of protesters shouted: “Stop stealing the money! Where’s the money!”

“There’s no difference between the Red Cross and Wall street,” another member of the Haitian Coalition protested on that occasion. “They’re not in the business of crisis – they’re in the business of making a profit. They make a profit off the crisis, heartache and humanitarian needs of the people.”

Sister Fatima gave credence to these complaints by pointing out that Red Cross employees in Haiti lodged at the most exclusive hotels and lived a life of luxury while millions of Haitians faced starvation.

“Haiti is being sold by the pound to foreigners with total neglect to what Haitians may have to say about it,” she says.

Haiti, a nation of 7 million, as a result of the earthquake suffered about the heaviest of blows proportionate to its size than any other nation encountering similar disasters. Haitian government figures showed that more than 230,000 citizens died, 300,000 were  injured to various degrees, and a million were left homeless. More than 280,000 homes and businesses and other structures were destroyed or put out of commission.

CBS News laid bare the hypocrisy and dishonesty of the American Red Cross on May 12 when they confronted the organization’s President and CEO Gail McGovern over the spending of the money collected in the name of offering relief to Haitians affected by the earthquake. Reporter Sheryl Attkisson conducted the interview.

“Can you tell the public today that every dime raised by the American Red Cross for Haiti will be spent on Haiti?” Attkisson asked.

“Minus the nine cents overhead, 91 cents on the dollar will be going to Haiti,” McGovern said. “I give you my word and my commitment. I’m banking my integrity, my personal sense of integrity on that statement.”

CBS producers informed the viewers that it was too soon to get a detailed accounting of the Red Cross contributions and expenditures in Haiti. “Each non-profit has its own policing mechanisms, like independent audits and advisory committees,” the network reported. “They each say they can show with great precision where nearly every penny is going, but that will take time.”

Yet they pointed out that McGovern is well-aware of prior scandals where the Red Cross was accused of, in effect, “stealing” money they had collected in the name of the poor and dispossessed victims of natural disasters around the world and then spending it on themselves or some other unrelated cause.

The CBS investigation caught the attention of bloggers and black media that were homed in on the situation in Haiti. In addition to the American Red Cross, the network also blew the whistle on Catholic Relief Services, the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, the once-popular billion-dollar-level international charity CARE, Catholic Relief Services and the Clinton Foundation Haiti Fund.

From the CBS investigations, one blogger noted, the international public learned that these five organizations “had collected vast amounts of monies for the emergency in Haiti, but used only a fraction of the money to ease the suffering of the people. claiming the 80 to over 90% emergency monies still in their coffers, four months after the earthquake, were for ‘future projects.’ Thing is, many Haitians will have no future. When you’re having a heart attack, it’s an emergency and if the ambulance gets there months in the future, you’re dead already. These folks know this. That’s why we say they’re letting the people die.”

Despite all the suffering and heartless deprivation of the money due them, thousands of Haitians who fled their homeland for sanctuary in the United States are faced with the possibility of deportation. More than 61,000 Haitians have applied for protected status, a condition that will allow them to continue to live and work in the U. S. unmolested by immigration agents for 18 months. But the irony of the provision is that only Haitians who were already in the United States before January 12 last year can qualify for such status, according to a report from the Haitian Women of Miami organization. The deadline for applying for protected status is January 18, the report said.

At least 700 Haitians purportedly with criminal records are scheduled for deportation in 2011, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said on Dec. 10. The “resumption of removals,” she said, “will be conducted in a safe humane manner with minimal disruption to ongoing rebuilding efforts.”

(Source: CBS News May 12, 2010)