When a massive earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, it devastated families and communities. More than 200,000 lives were lost and 1.5 million people became homeless. Infrastructure was destroyed, schools collapsed, and the country’s medical capacity was badly broken.
The challenges were immense: damaged ports and runways created barriers to bringing lifesaving supplies to Haiti, rubble-filled streets made it nearly impossible to deliver relief items to cut-off neighborhoods, and 25 percent of the country’s civil servants were killed—leaving the Government of Haiti critically limited in its ability to respond.
It didn’t take long for the island’s heart-wrenching images to reach America’s shores, where people opened their hearts and donated generously to help save lives. Children took up collections, customers gave at the cash register, corporations made contributions, and people donated by text message. Gifts to American Red Cross’s work in Haiti totaled close to $490 million. The money was placed in a restricted account and 91 cents of every dollar donated for the earthquake was invested in programs to help the people of Haiti. Only nine cents was spent on overall management, general and fundraising.
In the first six months, the American Red Cross spent $148.5 million of these donations to help keep people alive by providing food, water, medical care, emergency shelter, cash grants, and other essentials to people in need. Less than ten months after the earthquake struck, a severe cholera outbreak occurred—and the Red Cross helped save lives again by distributing soap and water purification tablets, educating people about how to prevent and treat cholera, and providing 70 percent of the funds needed for the country’s first cholera vaccine. See more about our work in that first critical year.
We know from experience that families affected by a disaster as devastating as the Haiti earthquake need more to help them recover than the lifesaving supplies delivered in the immediate aftermath. So the Red Cross has spent the past 10 years investing in Haiti’s medical capacity, water systems, infrastructure, economic sustainability, disaster preparedness, and availability of safe housing.
Haiti has been one of most challenging and complex disaster responses ever, and this has required flexibility from humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross.
Like others, we had hoped to find land to construct new permanent homes. When land upon which to build was not readily available in places accessible to services and livelihoods, the Red Cross made it a priority to help move the most people possible out of camps. So we invested in other housing solutions—like rental subsidies, home repair, and home expansion to increase the country’s rental stock. We and our partners built thousands of transitional shelters that are still standing years later. Many have been expanded into permanent homes and are more durable than many of the homes Haitians lived in before the earthquake.
When the Government of Haiti asked us to continue our focus on alternative housing solutions—rather than build new homes from the ground up—we adapted. And when Haitians living in the neighborhoods where we work asked us to focus on jobs, schools, and continued support to health and water, we adapted to that, too.
We have helped more than 164,000 people through housing and neighborhood recovery (see a full breakdown of our shelter spending) and we are continuing to repair schools, roadways, and water distribution points in neighborhoods.
To ensure we are reaching the most people possible, and making the most efficient use of donor dollars, we have funded more than 50 organizations to help carry out more than 100 different aid projects. Partnering enables us to extend our reach, leverage the capacity of organizations with specialties already on the ground, avoid duplication of efforts, and ensure gaps are covered. Partners like small community-based organizations, large international non-profits, sister Red Cross organizations, and the United Nations each bring targeted skills or offer access to the most vulnerable people that one single organization cannot provide alone. See a full list of the organizations we have funded.
We are grateful for the generosity of the American public and know that it is important to have staff and systems in place to conduct careful oversight of the dollars entrusted to us by donors. We also know that managing donors’ gifts means more than doing good work on the ground. It also means monitoring the use of donations, informing donors about how their money has been spent, paying skilled staff members to carry out the work, renting secure office space, and ensuring that dollars are leveraged as far as possible. Of the $490 million donated, less than 15 percent has been spent to cover these types of expenses.
This spending helps make sure that our donors’ funds are not misappropriated or wasted. We believe they are justifiable costs given the size and complexity of the Haiti program, the scope and scale of the destruction, the 10-year duration of the program, and the challenging and sometimes dangerous conditions of working in Haiti.
Donations from the American public gave people help—and they gave people hope. Working for and alongside Haitians as they recover and rebuild, the Red Cross has provided funds for more than 50 hospitals and clinics; helped more than 164,000 people through safe housing and neighborhood recovery; rebuilt schools, roads, and bridges; and have built or repaired more than 9,000 latrines and other water & sanitation systems. See more details at redcross.org/Haiti.
Today, all of the $490 million donated to Haiti has been fully committed to ongoing projects. We believe that the information provided below—which includes a description of all of the projects we are managing in Haiti and the organizations who have helped us with our essential work—along with how much each project cost—sets a new standard of transparency for the non-profit sector.