After two major hurricanes hit the east coast in 2012, many responded in a typical fashion – by donating to the American Red Cross. Indeed, the Red Cross received hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to assist with the storm relief. Did the donations go to waste?
According to a joint investigation by ProPublica and NPR, the Red Cross botched its emergency responses to both hurricanes — first to Hurricane Isaac and then to Superstorm Sandy two months later. The investigative reports cite internal Red Cross documents, emails, and interviews with two Red Cross staff members on the ground during the hurricane and reveal mismanaged volunteers and vehicles and supplies diverted for public relations purposes. One Red Cross driver admitted to the investigators that the organization’s supervisors ordered dozens of trucks usually used to deliver aid to be driven around nearly empty just for show.
The reports also show that the Red Cross lacked basic supplies to distribute to victims after the storms. Even when they did have the supplies, they had trouble connecting the supplies to the victims, in one case being forced to throw away tens of thousands of meals.
The Red Cross has denied allocating resources for public relations purposes and defended the charity’s overall responses to the storms. In an official statement to ProPublica and NPR the organization wrote: “While it’s impossible to meet every need in the first chaotic hours and days of a disaster, we are proud that we were able to provide millions of people with hot meals, shelter, relief supplies, and financial support during the 2012 hurricanes.”
These botched jobs follow closely on the heels of the financial mismanagement allegations the organization endured after September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. In that instance a series of the Red Cross’ chief executives were forced to resign and Congress forced an overhaul of the organization.
Will you still donate to the Red Cross? Do you think the Red Cross would improve if there was a competitor charity providing effective disaster relief?