By Stephon Johnson, Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The American Red Cross should be put on 24-hour surveillance. That is the call from protestors who gathered outside Red Cross Manhattan headquarters March 22.
When Haiti suffered an undeserving fate via a major earthquake January 12, there was an outpouring of philanthropic action from around the world. Donations of money, supplies and food were sent to some of the world’s biggest charities. Celebrity telethons were held in honor of the Haitian victims. Everyone felt good about themselves and their worth as a human being and moved on.
But maybe people shouldn’t move on so quickly. There are some who have continued to monitor the situation in Haiti and want to make sure that every donated cent is used on behalf of the Haitian people.
Organized by the December 12th Movement,a non-governmental human rights organization, a group called the Friday Haiti Relief Coalition took to the American Red Cross headquarters in New York City to protest and ask where over $354 million of Haiti donation money has gone. Only $106 million has been accounted for so far.
“We have been on the ground and we know the people are in need of shelter,” said coalition member April Raiford. “The money collected by the Red Cross for Haiti is not getting down there and we’re tired of the excuses.” The Red Cross, allegedly, has a history of not handing out all of the aid that is at their disposal.
It’s been reported that the Red Cross raised over $3 billion in aid to help the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, with $500 million still held by the relief organization. The organization raised over $1 billion in aid to donate to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, but kept $200 million to prepare for future disasters.
According to officials at the American Red Cross, however, the organization fell into debt after the terrorist attacks in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. At the end of 2008, the American Red Cross claimed to have a $209 million operating deficit. As of early February, that deficit was just under $33 million. But the Red Cross fell under public scrutiny after news leaked that the organization attempted put some of the $1 billion raised after September 11 on reserve.
Last month, the AmNews reported the emergence of protesters in different parts of Haiti, including the capital, Port-au-Prince, with survivors wondering why it’s taking so long for aid to reach their quarters.
It was reported that Gail J. McGovern, the chief executive officer of the American Red Cross, was about to give a fundraising pitch speech to millionaires in Texas when she got the news of the catastrophe in Haiti by text message. While there are reports of the Red Cross acting in good faith with Haiti, that doesn’t do any good for the Friday Haiti Relief Coalition, who want clear and concise answers from the organization itself.
“Stop stealing the money! Where’s is the money?!” protesters shouted.
Last month, the AmNews reported that federal law enforcement officials said that they had received over 170 complaints about fundraising scams connected to Haiti relief. One of those scams involved a fake charity that claimed to be the British affiliate of the Red Cross. This is was the real British Red Cross, officials said on their website following news of the scam.
“There is currently a fraudulent e-mail campaign in operation soliciting donations via Western Union and MoneyGram money transfer for Haiti on behalf of the British Red Cross,” read the statement. “The British Red Cross and the Western Union Company would like to inform the general public that the British Red Cross will never solicit donations via Western Union money transfer.”
With the Red Cross going out of its way to address scams claiming to be connected to them, hopefully they’ll address matters surrounding their own people, observers suggested.
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