The Red Cross: Charity Or Charade

The Red Cross is a multinational humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance during times of natural disaster and national distress. Although they are an internationally recognized body, the Red Cross is a far cry from the dependable reputation built up in the early years of their existence. This is due to evident flaws in their management, communication, and execution.

The origin of the American Red Cross dates back to 1881, during the time of the Civil War. Clara Barton, a nurse assisting in the care of wounded soldiers, is given credit for the creation of this charitable institution. The Red Cross is credited for their swift service and effectiveness in remedying the effects of the Great Thumb Fire in 1881 and the Johnstown Flood in 1889. At the time, the Red Cross demonstrated generosity that was unparalleled by any other organization. There were no charities that were willing to give up such vast amounts of resources and human labor with nothing given to them in return. During the 20th century, the Red Cross came to mean humanitarian and good works, but now, they can’t seem to do anything right.

The start of the Red Cross’s deterioration was shortly after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. The organization was found to have mishandled large quantities of blood and money that were donated to survivors, and were unable to efficiently distribute supplies among the people. They even managed to repurpose the 200 million dollars found in the 9/11 Liberty Fund instead of putting it towards the families whose lives were impacted by this horrible incident. In spite of this and other misgivings, the Red Cross is still seen as the pinnacle of humanitarianism. In America, citizens freely donate their money to the Red Cross, foregoing research that might disway them in favor of the peace of mind associated with charity. The organization is falsely glorified due to lack of education among the public, and the media's failure to draw attention to the Red Cross’s mistakes.

One example of their incompetence is shown by their actions in Haiti. In 2010, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, a third world country in Central America. All eyes turned to the Red Cross, the go-to organization for disaster relief efforts. A whopping one half billion dollars were donated to the Red Cross to aid them in helping rebuild the country, and in turn, the Red Cross launched LAMIKA, a project whose main focus was to build hundreds of permanent homes. LAMIKA was projected to be finished in January of 2013, but they failed to meet their deadline. In fact, the Red Cross has only managed to build six houses in the seven years following the earthquake. In Campeche, the residents were left with no water, electricity, or sanitation supplies. There is even media coverage of several men bailing out their homes with pails after a rainstorm. This was a major upset to the people of Haiti and to the millions of donors who sent their money to assist in this kind of thing, and the public demanded answers. The media covered the incident, providing the necessary pressure to get the organization’s attention. Unsurprisingly, the Red Cross declined to provide details on programs ran in Haiti, how much they cost, and what the organization’s expenses were. They did however, provide multiple excuses as to why they were unable to follow through with LAMIKA. The Red Cross blamed government coordination delays, disputes over land ownership, delays at Haitian customs, challenges finding qualified staff who were in short supply and high demand, and a cholera outbreak. While this is a plausible justification, the Red Cross still needs to account for the millions of dollars that were not spent on the Haitians. They failed to take responsibility for their faulty performance in Central America, and still do to this day. Unfortunately, this is not the only example of the organizations inadequacy, and is seen again in Louisiana several years later.

Louisiana underwent a massive flood in 2016, and naturally, the people looked to the Red Cross for support. Unfortunately, the high overturn of their management positions made the organization hard to get into contact with. Citizens whose houses were damaged by the water were given a voucher for three days worth of food by Red Cross workers, however, the food took over a week to be delivered. While this may not seem like a large delay to the general public, to the people huddled in crowded churches waiting for warm food to arrive, it was. Adults in the community are reported to have had to negotiate every evening with the Red Cross to get them to stay another day and help with damage control. The biggest insult to the people was the Red Cross’s refusal to deliver supplies donated by good Samaritans across America. They claimed they didn’t have the necessary certified drivers to take the supplies to the town, so the much needed food and water was stuck in a warehouse miles away. Ultimately, the few people left with usable cars were forced to drive up to the warehouse and pick up the supplies themselves. This again displays the feeble attempts of the Red Cross to follow through with their mission statement. These are just two of many incidents where the Red Cross has proven themselves incapable of providing adequate care to those who need it.

Despite these glaring accusations, there are some people who still defend the organization and their actions. Some critics remain unimpressed with the public’s criticism of the Red Cross, and believe there is a “disconnect between low-level criticism and scale of charity’s work”. The Red Cross provides an outlet for people to direct their money and desire to help. In addition to collecting money for their philanthropic effort, they also claim to help 64k disasters every year. In 2016 alone, the Red Cross helped a house fire every 8 minutes, installed 353k smoke alarms, and taught 5. 3 million people CPR. At the same time, the Red Cross plays a key role in coordinating efforts of smaller organizations, and sets the standard for how those organizations should behave. The official standard is called the “Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief”. The Red Cross is the backbone of charity work around the world, and should be recognized as such. Despite this defensive stance towards the Red Cross’s behavior, the organization is still a glaring disappointment. They lack accountability for the large sums of money they raise, and they lack the proper management and planning to make up for it. New scandals arise after every natural disaster. Disasters like Hurricane Katrina (2005), Hurricane Isaac (2012), and Hurricane Sandy (2012) show unforgivable mistakes on the Red Cross’s part. These include but are not limited to the use of emergency vehicles for PR stunts, sex offenders ‘mistakenly’ allowed to mingle with children, and ill-equipped emergency centers. It is obvious that the Red Cross is no longer a reliable source to donate money to. If a person wants to help those affected by a natural disaster, they should donate their money to credible charities like Americares, Rotary Club, or Feeding America. This will better ensure that their money gets used for its intended purpose, and not misused by faulty administration.

In conclusion, it can be seen that the Red Cross’s incompetence regarding their relief efforts is undeniable. Unfortunately, they remain America’s charity of choice during national or international distress. This can be credited to the lack of education in the country surrounding charities and how they manage the massive amount of funds they are given. However, thanks to the media, the mistakes made by the Red Cross are being brought to the public’s attention, and hopefully their giving eyes will turn to other, more credible organizations. That being said, the Red Cross is necessary for coordinating smaller, less impactful organizations. In the end, the Red Cross should refrain from leading relief efforts, but should remain a part of international charity.

10 October 2020
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