Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Thursday, 4 June 2015

How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti and only Built Six Homes -

How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti and only Built Six Homes - 

THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF CAMPECHE sprawls up a steep hillside in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. Goats rustle in trash that goes forever uncollected. Children kick a deflated volleyball in a dusty lot below a wall with a hand-painted logo of the American Red Cross.
In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor area, which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the project — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.
Today, not one home has been built in Campeche. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.
The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the quake, nearly half a billion dollars.

Confidential memo warns of “failed results”
Report on key project finds no “contributions of any sort to the well being of households”
Red Cross CEO emails about “wonderful helicopter idea” to spend money
The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, emails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success.
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.
After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.
Aid organizations from around the world have struggled after the earthquake in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. But ProPublica and NPR’s investigation shows that many of the Red Cross’s failings in Haiti are of its own making. They are also part of a larger pattern in which the organization has botched delivery of aid after disasters such as Superstorm Sandy. Despite its difficulties, the Red Cross remains the charity of choice for ordinary Americans and corporations alike after natural disasters.
One issue that has hindered the Red Cross’ work in Haiti is an overreliance on foreigners who could not speak French or Creole, current and former employees say.
In a blistering 2011 memo, the then-director of the Haiti program, Judith St. Fort, wrote that the group was failing in Haiti and that senior managers had made “very disturbing” remarks disparaging Haitian employees. St. Fort, who is Haitian American, wrote that the comments included, “he is the only hard working one among them” and “the ones that we have hired are not strong so we probably should not pay close attention to Haitian CVs.”
The Red Cross won’t disclose details of how it has spent the hundreds of millions of dollars donated for Haiti. But our reporting shows that less money reached those in need than the Red Cross has said.
Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work. Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management. Even on the projects done by others, the Red Cross had its own significant expenses – in one case, adding up to a third of the project’s budget.
Where did the half billion raised for Haiti go? The Red Cross won’t say.
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In statements, the Red Cross cited the challenges all groups have faced in post-quake Haiti, including the country’s dysfunctional land title system.
“Like many humanitarian organizations responding in Haiti, the American Red Cross met complications in relation to government coordination delays, disputes over land ownership, delays at Haitian customs, challenges finding qualified staff who were in short supply and high demand, and the cholera outbreak, among other challenges,” the charity said.
The group said it responded quickly to internal concerns, including hiring an expert to train staff on cultural competency after St. Fort’s memo. While the group won’t provide a breakdown of its projects, the Red Cross said it has done more than 100. The projects include repairing 4,000 homes, giving several thousand families temporary shelters, donating $44 million for food after the earthquake, and helping fund the construction of a hospital.
“Millions of Haitians are safer, healthier, more resilient, and better prepared for future disasters thanks to generous donations to the American Red Cross,” McGovern wrote in a recent report marking the fifth anniversary of the earthquake.
In other promotional materials, the Red Cross said it has helped “more than 4.5 million” individual Haitians “get back on their feet.”
It has not provided details to back up the claim. And Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister at the time of the earthquake, doubts the figure, pointing out the country’s entire population is only about 10 million.
“No, no,” Bellerive said of the Red Cross’ claim, “it’s not possible.”


Exposure to common household pesticide 'TRIPLES boys' risk of ADHD', experts warn -

Exposure to common household pesticide 'TRIPLES boys' risk of ADHD', experts warn - 

A pesticide found in common household products has been found to triple a boy's risk of being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, scientists have warned.
Symptoms of the condition, notably hyperactivity and impulsivity, were found to be associated with exposure to pyrethroid pesticides, the US researchers found.
The ingredient is found in many common insecticides and some insect repellents.
Experts, led by those at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, noted the link was stronger in boys than in girls.

Paediatrician Tanya Froehlich, the study's author, said: 'Given the growing use of pyrethroid pesticides and the perception that they may represent a safe alternative, our findings may be of considerable public health importance. 
In the US officials banned the two most commonly used organophosphate pesticides - containing organic compounds with phosphorus - from residential use in 2000, after concerns were raised over adverse health consequences. 

The ban led to the increased use of pyrethroid pesticides, which are now the most commonly used pesticides for residential pest control and public health purposes in the US.
They are also increasingly used in agriculture.
Pyrethroids have often been considered a safer choice because they are not as acutely toxic as the banned organophosphates. 

Pyrethroid pesticide is found in pest control sprays 
But the researchers note, animal studies have suggested a heightened risk of hyperactivity, impulsivity and abnormalities in the dopamine system in male mice.
Dopamine is a neurochemical in the brain thought to be involved in many activities, including those that govern ADHD. 
Researchers studied data from 687 children between the ages of eight and 15, from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2000 to 2001.
Pesticide exposure measurements were collected in a random sample of the urine of half the eight to 11-year-olds, and a third of the 12 to 15-year-olds.
Boys with a detectable measure, known as 3-PBA, of pyrethroids in their urine, were three times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, compared with those who had no detectable trace of the pesticide.
Hyperactivity and impulsivity increased by 50 per cent for every 10-fold increase in 3-PBA levels in boys.
The biomarkers were not associated with increased odds of ADHD diagnosis or symptoms in girls. 
Dr Froehlich, added: 'Our study assessed pyrethroid exposure using 3-PBA concentrations in a single urine sample.
'Given that pyrethroids are non-persistent and rapidly metabolised, measurements over time would provide a more accurate assessment of typical exposure and are recommended in future studies before we can say definitively whether our results have public health ramifications.' 
The study was published in the journal Environmental Health.