As the death toll in Haiti following Hurricane Matthew reaches 1,000 and 1.4 million people are left “in need of humanitarian assistance,” reports of deadly cholera outbreaks are beginning to concern aid groups. But despite the desperate pleas for help coming from the hurricane-torn island nation, some Haitians are not thrilled about the presence of scandal-ridden organizations such as the American Red Cross (ARC) — or even the Clinton Foundation — in their country.
Thanks to a 2015 report exposing ARC for its poor management of Haiti-bound donations, Haitians like Facebook user French Francois have been urging the public to steer clear from the 135-year-old foundation. Instead, she wants individuals willing to help to reach out to Haitian organizations instead.
Unfortunately, her concerns are grounded in legitimate problems.
In 2015, ProPublica and NPR found that despite ARC’s claims that “for each dollar donated, 91 cents went to Haiti,” a large portion of the funds intended for those suffering after a devastating 2010 earthquake ended up squandered by the organization. The International Federation of the Red Cross took a 26 percent cut for overhead while the “American Red Cross’ management and other costs consumed an additional 24 percent of the money.”
In his book, The Big Truck That Went By, an Associated Press reporter in Haiti at the time of the earthquake, Jonathan Katz,discussed post-disaster spending. According to his assessment, third-party organizations like ARC are plagued with a “cycle of overhead.”
“It was always going to be the American Red Cross taking a 9 percent cut, re-granting to another group, which would take out their cut,” he said.
But while ARC’s unsuccessful track record in Haiti causes legitimate concerns among Haitian communities, the potential involvement of a second humanitarian organization tied to past scandals are also raising alarm. And in this case, instead of overhead, what has plagued the involvement of this organization with Haiti reconstruction efforts goes beyond overspending.
The Clinton Foundation suffered a string of bad media reports due to the family’s response to the earthquake that ravaged the Caribbean nation in 2010.
The problem — despite many mainstream media reports claiming otherwise— did not have much to do with how much was built in the tiny island thanks to the Clintons’ involvement. Instead, many of the investigative reports exploring their role in the controversy revolved around the political dynasty’s use of their influence within government; some of the foundation’s top donors were granted exclusive contracts to “rebuild” Haiti. In one example, companies who received contracts thanks to their influence with the Clintons provided substandard classroom trailers that harbored “a host of problems, from mold to sweltering heat to shoddy construction,” the Nation reported in 2011. Students experienced headaches and other symptoms and were forced to take painkillers several times a week.
This demonstrates, once again, that the revolving door in Washington remains strong despite president Barack Obama’spromises to put an end to the cozy relationship between major corporations and Washington — or those who wield power there.
As Haitian Facebook user François says, “Haitians are tired.” It’s time for the world to recognize the web of cronyism and incompetence that organizations like the ARC and the Clinton Foundation so often represent.