By Amadi Ajamu, San Francisco Bay View
As the Haitian people brace themselves for the hurricane and rainy season with no shelter and no supplies for millions, the United States, France, Canada and other nations are attending the United Nations Donors Conference on Wednesday, March 31. At the conference, these wealthy nations will “donate” funds to over 3,000 non-governmental organizations, most of them headquartered in their own countries. They are in effect paying themselves.
The American Red Cross has already admitted to financing its own debt with donations given for Haiti relief. According to its official report on the first two months since the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, they collected over $354 million for Haiti but have spent only $106 million. Yet only half of the 1.3 million people made homeless by the quake have even a tarp as the rainy season begins.
Demanding an independent accounting, the Friday Haiti Relief Coalition protested at the American Red Cross headquarters in New York City on March 22. They’ll repeat that demand on Wednesday, March 31, at the United Nations in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 47th Street and First Avenue, during the Haiti Donors Conference at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Another key demand is that Haitians must determine for themselves how they want to rebuild their nation.
In Haiti, recent rain presages the heavy tropical downpours of the coming rainy season and the hurricanes that may follow. In addition to the nearly 300,000 who died in the earthquake or from their wounds, thousands more could die this spring from exposure and water-borne disease. Time is of essence. Shelter is needed now.
Where is all the money going? That was the burning question asked by the crowd that converged on the doorstep of the American Red Cross on March 22 led by the Friday Haiti Relief Coalition. The coalition was organized by the December 12th Movement days after the earthquake and has raised funds and delivered a tractor trailer full of water to Leogane, Haiti. A second trip is being planned now.
“We have been on the ground and we know the people are in need of shelter. The money collected by the Red Cross for Haiti is not getting there. We are tired of the excuses. That’s our blood down there and our money. We demand immediate shelter for our people,” said coalition member April Raiford.
Red Cross personnel nervously scampered back and forth as the protesters chanted, “Stop stealing the money! Where’s the money!”
Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement said: “We will keep organizing and mobilizing our people until the Haitian people get shelter and supplies. The American Red Cross has not been held accountable for the hundreds of millions they have collected in the name of Haiti and we won’t let them off the hook. They did the same thing during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The money donated to Haiti is for the people in Haiti, not the Red Cross CEO and executive bureaucrats. Haiti needs shelter now!”
The Friday Haiti Relief Coalition also has a committee looking into the possibility of a class action lawsuit against the American Red Cross. The coalition meets every Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Sistas’ Place, 456 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn, NY. For more information, call (718) 398-1766.
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