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13 Facts about the Red Cross Response in Haiti

This post was updated on June 4 to include additional details on spent and committed funds (see the fourth myth/fact pair) and a link to our Myths vs. Facts matrix in French. Please also see a new post by David Meltzer, “The Real Story of the 6 Homes in Haiti: Answering Your Questions.”

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, almost five and a half years after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the American Red Cross has made a difference in the lives of millions of Haitians who desperately needed help and humanitarian assistance.

These funds have helped build and operate eight hospitals and clinics, stem a deadly cholera outbreak, provide clean water and sanitation, and move more than 100,000 people out of make-shift tents into safe and improved housing. When land was not available for new homes, the Red Cross provided a range of housing solutions including rental subsidies, repairs and retrofitting of existing structures, fulfilling our promise to ensure tens of thousands of Haitians are back in homes. We also built and repaired schools, roadways and water distribution points vital to neighborhoods.

Read our full statement here. Our Myths vs. Facts matrix (13 Faits au Sujet de l’Aide Humanitaire de la Croix-Rouge Américaine en Haïti) is also available in French. You can also visit redcross.org/haiti to learn more.




The American Red Cross never had a final plan for its work in Haiti. The Red Cross began our long term planning shortly after the earthquake. Within the first year we had a working plan that established six strategic priorities and added a seventh:

  1. Emergency relief
  2. Shelter
  3. Health
  4. Water and sanitation
  5. Livelihoods
  6. Disaster preparedness
  7. Cholera prevention

Haiti is a complex place to work and because of that we needed to adjust and improve the plan to address the changing environment and challenges.

Example: When we could not secure land to provide new housing, we focused on safe housing with a wide spectrum of choices, not a one-size-fits all plan (rental subsidies, repairs and retrofitting of existing homes, as well as teaching people how to repair their homes).


Internal issues delayed services.

  • Staff turnover
  • Lack of planning
  • Poor relationships with partners

  • We have worked effectively, leveraging the capacity and specific skill sets of 47 partners to extend our reach and serve a spectrum of needs simultaneously.
  • Staff turnover was relatively low and, as we understand, consistent with other NGOs in Haiti.
  • The Red Cross continuously responded to changing circumstances by adapting our plan and remaining responsive to emerging and evolving needs.


Red Cross service delivery statistics are misleading.
  • 4.5 million people have been helped through our disease prevention programs. That’s the most conservative estimate of people assisted.  
  • Many who received help through disease prevention programs also benefited from multiple Red Cross services such as housing, job training, and access to clean water, but we only count them once. 
Details of Red Cross spending are so broad as to be useless. The Red Cross reports annually how we spend donor dollars on our website and break it down according to sector. We raised $488 million for our work in Haiti and here is how our spent and committed funds have been allocated:

  • Emergency relief: $66 million
  • Shelter: $173 million
  • Health: $73 million
  • Water and sanitation: $47 million
  • Livelihoods: $48 million
  • Disaster preparedness: $56 million
  • Cholera prevention: $25 million
The Red Cross takes overhead, then grants money to partners who also take overhead.
  • 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends goes to our humanitarian programs and services.
  • We partner with organizations that also keep their expenses low. 
  • It is more cost effective to rely on the expertise of partners than if we tried to build and staff these programs from scratch.


The Red Cross gave donor dollars to the U.S. government.
  • It is rare that we would grant money to a government agency, but in this case we pooled funds with the U.S. Agency for International Development – which assesses no overhead – each bringing our expertise and strengths to the project.
The Red Cross president promised to provide tens of thousands of people with permanent homes but only built six new homes.
  • The Red Cross has provided more than 132,000 people with safe and durable housing, through a variety of methods.
  • Often, the fastest and most efficient way to get people into safer homes is through rental subsidies, or repairs and/or retrofitting of existing homes.
  • We also build and repair infrastructure that is vital to neighborhood recovery – like schools, roadways and water distribution points. 
  • The bottom line is that there hasn’t been sufficient land available to build new homes – particularly in the most heavily affected areas of Port-au-Prince where people want to live.
  • Haitians don’t want to leave the neighborhoods where they lived, worked and went to school before the earthquake.
  • Red Cross has fulfilled our promise to make sure tens of thousands of Haitians are back in homes. 
The Red Cross calls temporary, or t-shelters, permanent homes. False.

  • In no place has the Red Cross called a t-shelter a permanent home. We consistently refer to the range of housing solutions that the Red Cross has offered in Haiti to provide people safe housing.
The cholera program had severe delays getting off the ground, despite Gail McGovern’s statement that Red Cross “sprang into action.” False.

  • Within 72 hours of the announcement of the cholera outbreak, teams of Haitian Red Cross volunteers were providing cholera prevention training in camps and staff members were sent to the epicenter of the epidemic to help respond.
  • Within five days, tens of thousands of pounds of cholera relief supplies were airlifted.
  • We have also provided most of the funding for a first-ever cholera vaccine in Haiti, and $47 million for projects to provide clean water.  
The Red Cross didn’t hire enough Haitians on staff, relying heavily on expensive “expat” staff. Wrong. 

  • Since the beginning of our earthquake recovery program, more than 90 percent of our staff has been Haitian.
  • Red Cross does not tolerate prejudice of any kind and took steps to train people in  cultural sensitivity.
  • The American Red Cross has hired some international staff with expertise in major disaster recovery and their benefit package is in line with the international humanitarian sector.
The Red Cross misled residents of LAMIKA by not telling them how much money would be spent there and not fulfilling promises of new homes.
  • We worked very closely with community residents in LAMIKA to keep them informed of plans and budgets, and got their input to decide how to spend funds in their neighborhoods.
  • We initially budgeted for 700 houses to be repaired, retrofitted or built, but we adapted and responded to the fact that clear title to land in the LAMIKA community could ultimately not be obtained.
  • Additionally, residents gave a higher priority to other needs such as roads and pathways, jobs, schools, etc., so we invested in shared community assets such as road, sidewalk, drainage and school construction.
Sources in the Red Cross say that 24 cents of every dollar donated for international programs goes to overhead – not 9 cents.
  • As with every dollar the Red Cross spends, an average of 91 cents goes to our humanitarian programs and services and only 9 cents to management, general and fundraising.
The Red Cross declined to show us projects in Haiti.
  • The Red Cross often arranges interviews for U.S. based media when they are visiting Haiti.
  • Other media outlets routinely provide us with several days of notice before visiting because they understand that our staff members have to stop their work to accommodate journalists.
  • We denied the request of ProPublica and NPR after they showed up in Haiti without making arrangements ahead of time.