Mia Farrow under fire over Haiti relief effort amid memories of troubled aid history for earthquake victims

 People walk by the collapsed Notre-Dame du Perpetuelle Secour church after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday. (Getty Images)
People walk by the collapsed Notre-Dame du Perpetuelle Secour church after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday. (Getty Images)
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Fundraising efforts to help victims of the devastating Haiti earthquakes are being complicated by the controversial history of some aid organisations in the country.

The death toll from the 7.2 quake which hit Haiti on Saturday reached 1,297 on Monday, with a further 5,700 injured.

As aid agencies and humanitarian activists such as Mia Farrow appeal for donations, a scandal over the $500m raised by the American Red Cross after the 2010 earthquakes has come back into sharp focus.

A 2015 Propublica/NPR investigation found a string of failures by the American Red Cross meant that only six houses were built from its half billion dollar fundraising campaign.

A Congressional inquiry in 2016 found that the charity spent $125m on internal expenses.

Farrow faced criticism this week after she appealed for donations to the Red Cross, even though it is not seeking donations for Haiti.

“Haiti needs our prayers of course but if you are able to help, here are some excellent humanitarian agencies working on the ground. American Red Cross, Partners in Health, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, UNICEF,” Ms Farrow wrote.

Responses to Farrow’s tweet said that the American Red Cross had “failed” Haiti.

“As a Haitian I say other than Doctors Without Borders Do Not Donate to these organizations, especially the Red Cross which failed Haiti terribly last earthquake.”

Save the Children and Unicef have also faced abuse scandals in recent years.

A scathing 2018 report from the UK Government into by nongovernmental organisations in Haiti found sexual abuse of vulnerable women and girls by international aid workers was “endemic”.

Other users suggested people channel their donations to organisations with a long-term permanent presence in Haiti.

“Right now, medical emergency aid is the most urgent,” Maarten Boute wrote on Twitter, recommending people donate to Project Medishare, Health Equity International or Zanmi Lasante.

Responding to the controversy, the American Red Cross told the Associated Press it was not seeking donations for Haiti relief, and that it was working with partners Haitian Red Cross and Red Crescent to respond to the earthquake.

“We will provide support to help meet the needs of families impacted by the quake, as we have done in the past,” it said in a statement.

The charity also pushed back at some of the findings of the ProPublica/NPR report. It said the money raised from donations had been invested in “50 hospitals and clinics, safer housing for more than 22,000 families, funding for the country’s first wastewater treatment plant, support for Haiti’s first-ever cholera vaccination campaign and so much more”.

The Independent has contacted Farrow’s representatives for a comment.

Marleine Bastien, the executive director of the Family Action Network Movement, a social service organisation based in the “Little Haiti” neighbourhood in Florida, said she planned to hold every group that’s collecting donations for Haiti accountable.

“We definitely do not want another film titled ‘Where Did The Money Go’?” Bastien said, in reference to the 2012 documentary that looked at donations given to Haiti relief following the 2010 earthquake.

Maryam Zarnegar Deloffre, an expert in humanitarian aid and professor at George Washington University, told the Associated Press that fundraising prospects for the country are bleak due to other international crises.

The deadly earthquake hit Haiti at the same time a growing humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Ethiopia, and the Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan.

“I unfortunately do not expect broad global attention to the earthquake in Haiti, or public giving, on the same scale as we saw in response to the 2010 earthquake,” she said.

Akim Kikonda, Catholic Relief Services’ country representative in Haiti, said the nation had been slowly recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 but drought and two recent tropical storms had caused more problems.

“It is quite possible that Haiti is going to need more help than ever before.”

The Caribbean nation – one of the poorest countries in the world – is also suffering from ongoing political unrest after the assassination of its president Jovenel Moise last month, and a tropical storm was expected to reach on Monday night.

Celebrities including Cardi B, Naomi Osaka, Wyclef Jean and Rick Ross have been posting messages of support and concern for Haiti.

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