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Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes (2015) (propublica.org)
184 points by wallace_f on Apr 1, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 100 comments



Article talks about The American National Red Cross. American Red Cross has controversial reputation. It's unfortunate that the reputation of American Red Cross can tarnish the good reputation of The International Red Cross.

Another point, not related to this case:

Money from fundraisers for large charities does not necessarily go to the cause they are collecting it. It often comes too late over weeks and months and you have budged and organize everything ASAP. If the money collected goes to fund the next big catastrophe and not the current one, there is nothing wrong with that. People are just emotional and irrational givers. Money is given as function of lobbying effort, not as function of need.


Same with the Swedish Red Cross. A couple of scandals showing poor use of donated money. Huge salaries to board members and also a previous "CFO" was a criminal and sentenced for embezzlement.


Admittedly, the American Red Cross has problems distributing humanitarian aid effectively, but the ICRC creates a separate set of problems for itself by departing from its founding mission as an impartial and neutral distributor of humanitarian aid. They risk losing their access to monitoring prisoners of war by advocating for certain interpretations of international law, something that's certainly important, but better left to organizations that don't need the same kind of cooperation from otherwise hostile regimes that the ICRC does.


The Hungarian Red Cross also had a similar fund handling scandal about a decade ago. It seems it happens across the organization in many different countries.


I wish they'd stop using the Red Cross' good name.


After three years moving through 35 countries in Africa, this sums up my experience and thoughts on aid money. I have spent considerable time with a ton of UN and NGO people in many different countries, and heard plenty of great first-hand accounts of how things actually work on the ground.

It sounds great, and the people giving the money really think they're helping. Unfortunately, it's rarely the case.


> After three years moving through 35 countries in Africa, this sums up my experience and thoughts on aid money. I have spent considerable time with a ton of UN and NGO people in many different countries, and heard plenty of great first-hand accounts of how things actually work on the ground.

I also worked in Africa (although in a more limited way than you) and I came to the same conclusion, it really was an eye opening. Actually our company which had absolutely zero humanitarian goals (and the CEO himself was very far from those ideals, he was just in for the money) was doing more locally than the vast majority of NGOs there.


It's not a surprise: when all others give you fish, a company may give you a fishing rod (I don't know if it was what happened in your case, but I wouldn't be surprised).


> It sounds great, and the people giving the money really think they're helping. Unfortunately, it's rarely the case

I don't think your experience driving around Africa gave you a enough information to adequately support your conclusion (which I could not leave unchallenged). I mean this in a non-disparaging way: you got breadth, but not depth. I, an African, on the other hand, have depth, but not breadth.

I have some experience with both sides of the NGO coin: I've seen communities and individuals positively. From disease eradication in whole communities to people regaining their vision. People giving money are helping in most of the cases. On the other side of the coin - I agree that NGOs have a lot of fat they could cut in terms of expenditures that do not directly go to their mission, but this depends entirely on which NGO it is and what their culture is, not all of them are the same. This is an industry ripe for disruption by leaner setups, too bad VCs aren't really geared for this.

Donors are helping, but maybe not as much as they think they are (per dollar). It would be great if they would research the org they are donating to to find how many cents per dollar are going to the cause. More transparency in this area is needed.


> I don't think your experience driving around Africa gave you a enough information to adequately support your conclusion....you got breadth, but not depth. I, an African, on the other hand, have depth, but not breadth.

That's a great point I had not thought enough about, and I think you are correct.

Certainly your examples of health (disease and sight) sound very positive.

Also examples where NGOs or World Vision or whoever bring in massive quantities of food appear very positive on the surface, though the long term consequences are extremely unhealthy, and just create more of a dependence loop than ever before, until locals are utterly unable to help themselves.

> Donors are helping, but maybe not as much as they think they are (per dollar). It would be great if they would research the org they are donating to to find how many cents per dollar are going to the cause. More transparency in this area is needed.

More transparency is absolutely the key, but I also think it's really important to take a step back and really think about if and how any donor is actually "helping" at all. We in the west have this funny idea that money is the answer to everything and more money = a better life. Certainly it's important to have healthcare and clean drinking water, but after that a lot of times I saw money degrading African society, not making anything better at all.

I'm terrified we'll turn many special countries into "little America" or "little Europe" complete with high cancer rates, stress, 9-5 jobs, pollution, lack of care for our community and neighbors, high crime, rampant greed and inequality ,etc. etc.


I live in Tanzania and the only people who don’t want the country turn into “little America” or “little Europe” is foreigners who just want to go on Safari. I and everyone else would love skyscrapers, 9-5 jobs, money, IPhones, etc.


> I and everyone else would love skyscrapers, 9-5 jobs, money, IPhones, etc.

Of course you do. What you don't want is skyrocketing cancer rates, heart disease, spousal abuse, a severe lack of time, people who are so poor they can't feed themselves, high crime rates and all the other things that come along with the "shiny" stuff like 9-5 jobs, money & iPhones.

The thing is the developed world hasn't figured out how to get one without the other, and if I were you, I would think long and hard if you really, really want what you're asking for.

I lived that life of the developed first world city, and frankly, it's horrible. I recently spent time in one of the world's most livable cities, supposedly a great place to live. After three years in Africa I would rather die than live in that "great western city".


I moved from NYC to Tanzania and spousal abuse, cancer, poverty, and crime is way higher here than there. The only tangibly better part of the culture is the sense of community.

I love Tanzania, but I recognize that it’s because I have the money to live a very good life here.

Unfortunately, I’ve gotten a little addicted to the power of having a cook, housekeeper, and gardener for under $15/day total. I miss NYC, but I also realize how hard it will be to go back to just being an average joe.


Sure, but you live in a city in Tanzania, which is already going the way of "Western City", so it already has all the bad stuff.

Get out into a town or village, or better yet, get to a country that isn't overrun with tourists like Tanzania is. Gabon is simply breathtaking, Congo is wild, Burundi really is the heart of Africa, Djibouti is like a different planet! There is a lot to explore, a huge part of me wishes I could turn around and drive south right now!


> I also think it's really important to take a step back and really think about if and how any donor is actually "helping" at all. We in the west have this funny idea that money is the answer to everything and more money = a better life.

I agree that there can be a charity can cause a vicious cycle by damaging local industry. However, it is pointless to talk about charity in isolation without considering other factors such as the harm caused by trade policies of developed nations (to be fair, is in their national interest), "exploitation"[1] of resources by MNC with no meaningful value-addition in host country, as well as a general lack of accountability among African political leaders.

Cutting all aid seems like an easy solution, but it won't spur development of local farms or industries if they are undercut by subsidized goods from abroad. The 'difficult' solution, but more likely to work, would be overhauling leadership culture, and getting a fairer trade system in place (e.g. no farm subsidies) - sadly, I do not see any appetite for either due to self-interest among the actors.

1. scare-quotes because raw resources are extracted and paid for, but the value addition is done abroad. Ghana produces a huge chunk of the world's cocoa, but most of the profits are captured by European chocolateers.


> It would be great if they would research the org they are donating to to find how many cents per dollar are going to the cause.

Charity Navigator can help: https://www.charitynavigator.org/


What then do you think is the right way to help these countries out of the rut they are in?

I used to think the Grameen Bank way was the best way, but even that has come under criticism [0].

0. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grameen_Bank#Criticism


The first thing I would do is say that someone must spent at least two years on the ground in the country they're trying to "help". They shouldn't "do" anything for those two years, just live with the local people and observe and learn.

I honestly think that anyone that doesn't actually live there on the ground doesn't have the faintest clue how to help, or what is even actually needed.

Also, the very idea that "help" is even required becomes quite strange after you've lived there a while. Certainly giving money helps nothing, very likely makes it worse.

Maybe training. Maybe education (but that will be very church or western oriented, so it's dangerous).

Maybe the best approach is to let people figure things out for themselves, and come up with their own solutions to problems. Maybe we could just offer some advice or pointers from time to time, if asked.


>and heard plenty of great first-hand accounts of how things actually work on the ground.

I'm interested: how do things actually work on the ground?


UN people are making $1000 USD per day, NGOs spend millions on a project that leaves a town worse off than before, foreigners come in and mess with the local economy in every way they possibly can.

Aid money buys foreign rice, floods the African market with it so the locals don't grow any next year, then the problem is worse and the dependence just grows every year.

I'll write at least a chapter on all these and more in the book I'm writing about my time around Africa.


It seems to me the most sensible way to provide aid, is to hire locals to do the work. By all means have some people there to check they're doing a good job, but certainly don't replace the work the locals are doing, or you're just creating unemployment.

I too heard that African farmers have been going bankrupt due to free rice from foreign aid after Live Aid and similar projects. Better to give locals money to buy rice from local farmers for a better price, and important food if that's not enough. Or use your foreign aid money to buy food from local farmers first, supplemented with foreign food if it's not enough, and distribute that. But keeping it as part of the local economy, rather than completely replacing the local economy, seems like a much better idea.

If you want to build houses in Haiti, hire locals to build those houses.


> It seems to me the most sensible way to provide aid, is to hire locals to do the work.

Absolutely, that's step number 1.

But of course, it has a ton of negative consequences too. Firstly, lots of these people are not used to having "jobs" or even any real money. So now some of them go to work all day, which means they are away from their families. They also get a lot of money relative to everyone else, so pretty soon they're buying motorbikes, beer and touch-screen cell phones.

So now you have this segment of the community that's "Living like Americans" while everyone else is still in a mud hut. The rich people's quality of life goes down - they don't get much time with their families, they drink too much, they eat badly, they're forced to buy food because they don't have time to grow and cook it, etc. - but paradoxically everyone else wants to be like them.

Basically you start to get all the problems of "Western Society" in a society that has never really had the concept of working for someone else or money.

Then later the work dries up (project finished or more likely runs out of money before complete) and now all these people are as screwed as Americans with no jobs. They're not growing their own food, they can't support their lifestyle (motorbikes, food, toys) and suddenly become very dependent.

In essence, we just turn them into the worst of Western Society, which, from what I saw, is horrible.

The thing is, this problem is extremely, extremely hard, and basically any suggestion solution has very, very real negative consequences. That's why I suggest spending some time and thinking really, really hard about if there is anything to "fix" in the first place. It's also why I think training and possibly some education is about the only things we should be "giving". It means the transition will be much slower than if we just built it for them (or paid them to build it) but in the long run the society will be stronger and better.


Join Kiva[1]. They do exactly as you say, and they are extremely successful.

[1]: https://www.kiva.org/


That's microcredits, isn't it? Definitely one of the bigger successes in supporting development in poor countries, all the more effective because they're loans that get paid back and can be loaned out again. But I'm not sure it's a great model for rebuilding after a disaster, which requires money that's not going to be paid back.

Or so it seems to me, at least. Maybe you know something I don't.


Yep, microcredit is not a donation, so it will not work for desperate situations, but you cannot hire locals in desperate situation too. If you want to hire locals and use other locals to check the work, then situation must be controllable, and locals must be rational and accountable. Banking system must work at least. In these conditions, Kiva provides very good "result achieved"/"money spent" ratio.

However, it's your money, so you can just throw them (donate) at refuges[1] or somebody who need a housing[2], if you want that, but it's doesn't work well for local economy.

[1]: https://www.kiva.org/lend/refugees-and-i-d-ps [2]: https://www.kiva.org/lend?sector=10


Why can't money be paid back after a disaster?


I suppose it could, but do you want to? I thought the issue here was that people donate money to be spent on housing, not to be loaned on housing and then paid back.

Microcredits are great in the long run because lots of small improvements really add up. The problem with big disasters is that you need more than small improvements to fix the problem, and to expect all of that to be paid back saddles poor people (or a poor country) with a lot of debt.

At least, that's what it seems like to me, but I'm no expert on this. They seem like two very different cases that require different solutions.


Please do! I'd be very interested in reading that. Will you announce that book in one of your links in your profile?


Yes, I will. I'm theroadchoseme.com


Not OP but I presume one of the root problems is how the aid is organized. You need lot of grass roots work to actually figure out what works locally. But that's not how you progress in a western organization. You need clear project plans, then you need a budget and follow ups on the project milestones. Which is all paperwork, and not directly related to the actual effect of the project on ground.

It's like a re-enactment of the Soviet Union. Big plans, big scopes ...


Giving the money to other organizations actually competent to do the work was a good idea. Skimming 9% and then allowing those to skim 24% off the top, less so. (But we don't even really know about the remaining 67%.)

Probably they should have identified groups actually doing work, and let them skim off 0%. I.e., let them submit bills to reimburse expenses for shipping, materials and local labor. Well-run organizations can achieve more when they don't need to scrounge for material expenses. Then, you can apportion according to tangible results.

But what do I know?


> Probably they should have identified groups actually doing work, and let them skim off 0%. I.e., let them submit bills to reimburse expenses for shipping, materials and local labor

I worked for a UN aid organisation a few years ago that worked like this. They have teams in the country that work with local suppliers to procure whatever goods or services they need to complete projects. The local supplier submits estimates that will be paid upon completion (the local supplier usually receives a bank loan for the funding, rather than being paid in advance).

Even so there is still a large amount of overhead. As with any government-esque organisation there is plenty of red tape and beuracracy at every level. The employees at this organisation are paid a very good salary, tax free, and get a whole host of other benefits and great pension. A lot of people don't seem that great at their job, but once they are in, they stay for life as it's rather cushy. The teams in charge of projects will fly a few times a year to the country, first class. Worst of all I heard rumors of projects being carried out that weren't needed, but were just done for whoever was in charge to get their promotion.


Stories like this are why I cannot in good faith donate to large charities. There needs to be more details on the inner workings on these charities, and even if they are in good faith it seems that smaller (and likely religious) organizations do the work more efficiently.


I've similar reservations but GiveWell [0] do some fine work in this area and I'd encourage you to at least check out their work. I'm not sure I agree with the religious part of your comment, on the basis that religious belief seems orthogonal to altruistic work.

[0] - https://www.givewell.org/


What makes GiveWell better than Red Cross? I apologize if this is a "lazy internet" question, but I really don't know how to tell the difference between one charity's marketing and another.


I'm currently reading William MacAskill's 'Doing Good Better' book, and to do a verry rough job of summarizing it boils down to an acts of whether the money donated to a given organization:

- Has the most effect on QALY (quality-adjusted life year) per dollar. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality-adjusted_life_year

- Whether the organization can effectively handle money given to it (i.e. it actually can quickly scale use of it - UBI-esque things like GiveDirectly seemingly fall on the higher end of scalability but effectiveness may still be up for debate)

- Givewell (when one donates to them for the discretionary grantmaking option) tries to allocate money for grants over time for what they see as the most effective grant based on their research / current needs of the organizations seeking funding. See https://www.givewell.org/about/FAQ/discretionary-grantmaking for more info. Also intriguing is their 2018 giving spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1EM0CCg9tvCCtEoY-QVAi...

This is my personal (and verry rough) take, honestly recommend reading the book - your local library probably has a copy in digital/audiobook formats. The book generally recommends against donating to disaster relief comparing the 2011 Japan earthquake to Haiti, though the point in that advice was largely that disasters in developed countries tend to attract more noise/news coverage than ones in other areas of the world.

If you're really lazy and just want to listen to some music in this vein, try https://lostboyevsky.bandcamp.com/album/existential-risk


Issues like distaster recovery should be handled by governments, not unaccountable private charities. The issue is that the U.S. has systematically destroyed Haiti's infrastructure for nearly a century and overthrown any leader that isn't a puppet regime.


It's because they had a successful slave revolt some hundreds of years ago. It's an interesting story, too long to tell.

Extremely worth researching.


This directly runs counter to the idea I was going to pitch.

Send in the troops and have the Core of Engineers actually build out infrastructure and cities to bring them up to modern code in a maintainable way. Also pull in some locals for education in how that stuff is done in the process and try to do knowledge transfer of "This is how you build civilization that does not get flattened by a hurricane."

Given the political history, I doubt that would go well. Is there a foreign military power with a similar skill set that could do this task?


It’s not that they could not build a “civilization that doesn’t get flattened by a hurricane” . Let’s speak facts and not some semi 4chan baseless insults. Haiti’s slave revolt the only successful one in history saw African people pummel Napoleons French army, the British army and the Spanish army. From 1804-1825 there was a economic embargo on the country (similar to what we do to North Korea). It only stopped when Haitians agreed to pay French slave owners reparations for the money they lost and property (slaves and land ). “In 1838, France agreed to reduce the debt to 90 million francs to be paid over a period of 30 years to compensate former plantation owners who had lost their property. The modern equivalent of $21 billion was paid from Haiti to France.” So, French banks actually loaned Haiti money with very high interest to pay the French government and avoid sanctions thus very deliberately stifling the growth of the country almost haunting it altogether. Note also this was the colony that made the French more money than all 13 of its colonies put together. Therefore the predicament we have today is due to the pure wickedness and greed of the French coupled with natural disasters.


Why does it need to be military? IIRC, Australia sent police, specialists as part of post Iraq war efforts.

US could send in fact send non military; engineers, etc, but it will viewed with local suspicion and may make things worst (assaults, sabotage by either side or third party). Even US is suspicious of foreigners building US infrastructure (ie Huawei).

When there's so much distrust of US by Haitians and US likewise doesn't trust Haitian government with funds, there are quasi government organisations such as UN: https://www.un.org/un70/en/content/70ways/index.html

Even they have had issues in Haiti.


Armies are portable civilisation.

If you task most civilian forces with going somewhere that has disaster level problems there will be blockers. Oh, we can't go there until they have: power, clean water, working telecoms, physical security, etc.

In contrast your military forces can, if necessary, bring everything. A US army deployment can make its own electrical power, make water safe, deploy radio communications, and of course it can provide its own physical security. It is not cheap, but it works.


Very much this. It's like with data-recovery. If things are extra-broken you don't try to fix the problem from within; you bring external order (A rescue disk, taking out the problem storage disk and mounting it to another system) and then fix the problem from a working host environment.


Is there something like THW in the US?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technisches_Hilfswerk

The only thing they don't do is the physical security.


We have FEMA, which is similar:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Emergency_Management...

They did a pretty shit job managing Hurricane Katrina though. Bush's political appointee to run FEMA had no relevant experience, and Trump now also has a variety of incompetents running various agencies.

The military is bigger, better funded, and most importantly, more competent. A lot of people in a disaster in the US, upon hearing that FEMA is coming, would rather wish it were the military (just based on track record).


How many did Habitat for Humanity make? I would expect they have among the highest houses per donated dollars. Jimmy Carter, former U.S. President, founded habitat for humanity.


From what I can gather, it's not a simple answer as they do more there than just build houses. There's infrastructure upgrades and mortgage assistance and even work on who owns what piece of property. Some stats for FY18 from https://habitathaiti.org/ :

665 infrastructure projects

683 homes repaired

2139 jobs created


I've seen countless bad stories about small, local charities. I don't know that I'd favour them either.


It's about trust more than anything.


Stories like this are why I do not donate to charities at all.

It is just too hard to verify that my money isn't going to pad some dictator's pocket.


It's this problem all the way down. You cannot verify that the charity is doing things properly. The charity cannot verify that the subcontractor is doing things properly. The subcontractor cannot verify that his employees in the foreign country are doing their job properly and then finally even they cannot verify that the locals who they are helping are actually those who need it the most.


Not giving anything is no solution either, but we definitely need more accountability for charities. This is part of that, I guess, but we also need to know which charities are effective. I'm sure that information is around somewhere too.


> Not giving anything is no solution either

You can always pay taxes.


It is a solution though.


>The Red Cross said it has to scale back its housing plans because it couldn't acquire the rights to land. No homes will be built.

The article's second half spends most of it's time describing the unreported management overhead that probably has to do with trying to navigate the infeasibly complex and ill-defined land ownership and transfer system of Hati's government.


And yet the clinton foundation had no issue building a 5 star hotel. Maybe they could have just asked them for some help dealing with the government?

Nah not worth it, it's just half a billion.


Apparently plenty of people had no trouble building 5 star hotels: https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-11-25/does-haiti-really-nee... Maybe the Haitian government was simply more open to hotel-building than home-building?


interesting and tbh completely understandable.

They would have been better off setting up a "no/low" interest loan system and building a supply line that caters to it.


This makes sense that if a country has a hard time building their own infrastructure it must be exponentially harder for outsiders to do so. Scams, graft, and corruption abound. Sad!


So hard that only six houses were built ... ?


I would like to see a requirement for tax-exempt charities (maybe even any organization, tax-exempt or not, that acts like a charity, collecting donations to help with healthcare/shelters/residences/infrastructure/education) to report pass-through granular summaries of material expenses and labor for lowest-level contractors, per project. Each project should state clearly its scope, budget, expected outcome, and final outcome once available.

As far as I can see, not even more honorable NGOs like the Gates Foundation do this. I see their annual report, and I see their financial statements, but neither really gets at what I'm looking for.

As generic examples, "Haiti earthquake recovery" and "malaria program" are not valid project scopes. They're vague umbrella categories that could have tons of unnecessary overhead with many levels of "contractors".


Don't disagree, but what you're proposing is also overhead. Not a problem for the large players, but perhaps harder to do for the small tax exempt charities.


https://my.charitywater.org/ has done an amazing thing in recognizing that a lot of people see this corruption and give up on the whole thing. They donate 100% of what you give. They get separate donations to cover operating costs, even using separate money to cover visa fees so that if you give 100$ on your credit card, 100$ goes to getting water to people. I find their work very impressive!


I'm not sure that's an improvement.

Charity X: 95% of money donated goes to the cause.

Charity Y: 100% of money donated goes to the cause ( but we get an extra 20% from some where else).

Charity X, incentives are aligned to minimise administration spend. Charity Y obscures that link.


Who cares if their admin spend is high if as a individual donator none of my donation goes to that spend?

I imaging the admin is covered by corporate donors/payment processors waiving fees and claiming it all back on tax


Because those corporate donors would have donated anyway. In fact just like people they probably want their money going to good causes rather than admin.

And you start getting all kinds of perverse situations. What happens if they have funding to take $1 million in donations, but they get $2 million? Do they return donations?

What happens if they can't get enough admin donations? Do they stop work? Regardless of how much money they have in the bank, waiting to go to good causes?

Then there's the issue of splitting your fund raising efforts. Instead of telling everyone 5% of their donation is going to admin. You have to have a distinct team of admin fund raisers.

So to answer your question I would care if their admin spend was high. And the current set up obscures what that spend is.


Did this article get help to actual people on the ground in this particular relief area?

What proceeds did you earn from ads on this article? Did you donate those? Where did you donate those proceeds?

Did this article minimize overhead of relief efforts anywhere?

Are you suggesting that ARC should not have collected donations at all? Because they do not have an established presence in the relief territory and are thus unqualified to determine how best to allocate donations, they shouldn't have collected and donated hundreds of millions of dollars to help?

Here would be a better way to use this time:

+ Develop a list of actionable suggestions for improving efficiency and allocation of relief aid

+ Develop solutions for problems in resource-constrained areas

+ Establish rapport with the people who you think are actually helping

+ Develop a transparent and accountable international transaction network that operates with minimal resources (on devices powered by hand crank and solar power)

+ Develop clean energy production capacity, storage, and a resilient power grid in order to produce 3D-printed homes (with plumbing and electrical to code) where there is little timber, clean water, and plenty of sand

+ Connect people in need of basic necessities with an efficient supply chain that doesn't leave pallets of things undistributed

+ Go hand out water and MREs and try not to get sick

+ What is a reasonable MLR (Medical Loss Ratio)


Writing that article probably didn't take more than a week so lets say 40 hours. Now compare that with the donation amount. 0.5 billion dollars. Assuming very generously you paid $300 per hour per employee (just to drive home how crazy the amount of money is) this is equivalent to 1.6 million man hours wasted compared to 40 hours. Someone with only 40 work hours is unable to solve the problem. An organization with millions of man hours should be able to solve the problem. In other words criticizing the author for wasting his time is completely crazy because unless he writes another 40000 of these articles his inefficiency amounts to almost nothing.


If you are looking for a charity that provides instant improvement in the lifes for those on the receiving end and does not have huge bureaucratic overhead, i suggest: https://www.onedollarglasses.org

They provide cheap, affordable glasses that can be manufactured/repaired/adjusted locally. They train people in the villages and provide the material needed.

I have no affiliation with them.


The comments here are very funny. Lots of finger pointing at Haitians, “corruption”, “land ownership system”, “send the army”. Let’s not forget and please acknowledge real facts. Haiti’s slave revolt the only successful one in history saw African people pummel Napoleons French army, the British army and the Spanish army. From 1804-1825 there was a economic embargo on the country (similar to what we do to North Korea). It only stopped when Haitians agreed to pay French slave owners reparations for the money they lost and property (slaves and land ). “In 1838, France agreed to reduce the debt to 90 million francs to be paid over a period of 30 years to compensate former plantation owners who had lost their property. The modern equivalent of $21 billion was paid from Haiti to France.” So, French banks actually loaned Haiti money with very high interest to pay the French government and avoid sanctions thus very deliberately stifling the growth of the country almost haunting it altogether. Note also this was the colony that made the French more money than all 13 of its colonies put together. Therefore the predicament we have today is due to the pure wickedness and greed of the French coupled with natural disasters.

Ps: recently us mercenaries were captured in Haiti deliberately inciting violence and instability. They have since been released to the US.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiY...

Yes these things are not reported.


One thing that requires clarification here is that there aren't shady characters at the helm of the American Red Cross collecting a billion dollars in grant money to develop housing. The money donated to the ARC isn't squandered by executive compensation. The Red Cross isn't even in the business of building houses. It helps provide housing through hotel voucher financial assistance or manages shelters. So, it's no wonder that mistakes were made. The ARC does a lot of things right. If people in the ARC actually committed to housing development, it wouldn't build the houses. It would partner with developers who did.

I'm a disaster response volunteer, although inactive since Katrina.


> 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.

I don't understand what is wrong with this situation.

The priority was to stop people dying not necessarily to solve a future inequality problem.


Do you really want to donate a charity that lies about what it's doing with your money? I definitely don't.


Did they lie, though.

Providing homes as in places to stays during disasters does not neccessary means "permanent" homes.


I think what you’re insinuating is actually worse than the reality.

I can understand “we genuinely wanted to help but we’re too incompetent to action on our promises”. That’s morally much better than “we intended to deceive from the outset and other people’s suffering is just the cover we need to line our own pockets”.


The article says that the Red Cross, lacking expertise, provided money to other organizations that had more. So I'm suspecting the criticism of "only six houses" is crafted to be misleading. It doesn't seem reasonable to say "they only built six houses" with the implication that their aid was direct, while at the same time, in the same article, criticizing them for the overhead of providing aid indirectly. You can slam them for one or the other, but not both.


Want to get rich in Haiti?

Work for an NPO -> https://www.averagesalarysurvey.com/haiti

You'll likely earn 3x what a Doctor would earn.


transparency could be enhanced by a public ledger such as blockchains


Ah ok. I’d have interjected with a scathing comment about how ideological market liberalism dooms these projects. Asked why couldn’t the Haitian government and legislature take over land plots and run the rebuilding projects; with logistical help and training from more advanced FEMA-like agencies from USA or other countries.

But then again, I remember how the Protezione Civile made a mess in L’Aquila, Italy and I wonder if Haiti would have fared better


people should just give money to bill gates. he gets things done


There are so many other organizations worthy of donations - UNICEF, Oxfam, Partners in Health, and tons of local NGOs. Maybe it's time for Red Cross donors to look elsewhere, until they clean up their act.


Oxfam was literally banned from Haiti due to staff exploiting locals for sex after a natural disaster.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/15/timeline-oxfam...


Sure, but how many permanent homes have they built?


The others also have big moral and corruption problems. It seems, like in the general society, that the problems comes from the higher management. For example, the last Oxfam pedophile scandal...


Instead of donating to feel good, wish it was easy for people in rich countries to buy someone a cow, change the roof, pay for a kid's school etc etc. Things that costs as little as a few hundred dollars but can change a life.

Red Cross should shunned by all, no TV time during emergencies.


There is an organization that focuses on this which has been quite successful as far as I know.

https://www.kiva.org/

The idea is micro loans directly to people who want to do something like buy a cow.

"Kiva loans have a historical repayment rate of about 97% (this number fluctuates slightly so check Kiva's homepage for the current rate)"

When you receive the money back you can then make another micro loan to help someone else out.



Thanks for pointing this out to me! It's disappointing to hear that, but after reading through the Kiva's response I understand some of the difficulty. They're certainly not ideal but seem like a solid choice compared to most of the other organizations out there that are completely opaque as to what is actually done with the money.


easier said than done, but imagine the satisfaction of a US middle class person spending $480 to cover the yearly tuition to a poor but bright student in X country? Nothing goes to support a gazillion "charity" managers.

I understand that fraud, nepotism etc etc all get in the way.


> US middle class person spending $480 to cover the yearly tuition to a poor but bright student in X country?

So, the U.S. has its own student loan bubble, that many economists believe is related to the increased availability of student loans AND/OR charitable donations to scholarship funds;

Is there evidence that covering 3rd world tuition doesn't create further class divide, and/or increase the cost of tuition in general? And that perceivably "bright" students are already often the best off.

Also realize that in many places in the world with $480/year tuition are receiving education from sources that get at least some of their funding or staff from NGOs; and that in many cases, "education" is in many cases separating children from their families -- and potentially (though the result dithers morally) decreasing the entire family's ability to be self sufficient by removing productive workers (in a culture where minimum, age of laborers in lower than the U.S. 16)


The concept of adopting someone in a poor country and sending them money was a thing at least 40-50 years ago, and if people (such as in this thread) no longer remember that it was a thing, I'm guessing it's because it became known as a large scale scam and people got disillusioned.


I think this is a really good idea and would probably make for a good small startup idea. For example, setup a charity where people directly donate to people and have the charity document everything with video/images and so on. People would definitely donate just so they can have the video/images of it (for social media) and for just overall feel good aspect of it. Just imagine how cool it would be if you could buy a goat for a rural impoverished African and get to see a picture of the goat and the person you helped. That would be pretty cool to me! I don't know why charities wouldn't already do this. Lots of people donate money out of personal benefit (the ego stimulation of knowing you're helping to make a difference in the world).


"Just imagine how cool it would be if you could buy a goat for a rural impoverished African and get to see a picture of the goat and the person you helped"

This was a thing at least two generations ago if not more. Have people utterly forgotten? Maybe it would be good to research why its popularity waned.


kiva.org


> wish it was easy for people in rich countries to buy someone a cow, change the roof, pay for a kid's school etc etc.

GiveDirectly does something very much like that. It's not quite a one-to-one link (there is a bit of planning involved so that they can do research on the effectiveness of their programs), but still, a very high percentage of what folks donate to them is paid directly to people living in extreme poverty, with little overhead. They have researched what the money is used for, and almost all of that is for either education or acquiring durable capital like you describe.


Serious question: The article says that there are roughly 10 million people living in Haiti. It also says that the Red Cross collected roughly 500 million dollars in donations. To me this sounds like it would have been a better idea to take whatever they wanted for themselves and give the remaining lets say 400 million in equal parts to the people of Haiti. Even if only 50% of that money would have reached its destination, each of the Haiti people would now have 20 million dollars to built up new lives. So why would these organizations try everything to buy land there and build houses and stuff - instead of just giving the money to the people who need it. Except for taking the money for themselves, obviously.

And I'm sorry but I cannot believe that one would actually need more than 300 million dollars to get an arbitrary amount of money to 10 million people.


> each of the Haiti people would now have 20 million dollars to built up new lives.

Isn't your math way off?

50% of 400MIllion = 200MIllion

200Million/10Milion = 20

So each person gets 20$, not 20 million dollars.


Ha, damn, now that's quite some error there! Thanks for correcting :)


> each of the Haiti people would now have 20 million dollars to built up new lives.

You mean 20 dollars...


I see you graduated from the Diane Abbott School of Mathematics.




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