I received a clarification comment from an American Red Cross Employee, this is the note she sent to me to clarify what Huffington Post incorrectly explained. Thank you very very much Gloria for explaining this. It is very much appreciated!!
Hi- I’m Gloria from the American Red Cross headquarters in DC and I’d like to help clarify the information you found in the Huffington Post article. Firstly, the Red Cross mentioned in the article is in fact the Japanese Red Cross – a completely different Red Cross society. We here at the American Red Cross have also been collecting money to support the relief efforts in Japan, which we then contribute to the Japanese Red Cross for them to use, since they are in charge of the relief activities there. The money donated to us will be transferred to the Japanese Red Cross, and they have expressed their gratitude to us and the American people for donating.
The article is also talking about one specific aspect of the relief: cash transfers to individual people affected by the quake. As I’m sure you can imagine, there are many people affected, and trying to come up with a fair system to determine how much money to give to whom is a difficult process. The Japanese Red Cross has been working on coming up with a fair method of giving out this money.
However, this doesn’t mean they are doing nothing at all as they figure this out. Since day one, the Japanese Red Cross has been on the ground in Japan providing much needed services like medical help, mental health consulting, food, water, blankets, etc. to the survivors. All of this immediate relief is part of what they do – and cash transfers will be yet another service to come soon. You can find out what they’ve been doing here: http://www.jrc.or.jp/english/relief/list.html
Hope this helps clarify,
Gloria Huang
HuangG (at) usa.redcross.org
Japan Earthquake: Why Red Cross Still Hasn’t Doled Out Donations To Quake Victims
The Japanese government has admitted it was slow to respond to the the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. Now, almost a month after the disaster, Japan’s Red Cross has also come under fire for not yet distributing to victims any of the nearly $1.3 billion the public has donated.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano has called for the process to be accelerated, the Los Angeles Times reports. But it might not be that easy.
The problem lies in streamlining the distribution process among such wide regions, Edano tells the Los Angeles Times.
Many of the local governments that would have been involved are no longer operational, Reuters reports. As early as this week, the Japanese Red Cross — along with existing local governments and other agencies — will form a committee to decide how to split the aid, according to Tadateru Konoe, president of the Japanese Red Cross Society. He tells Reuters:
“This is a big challenge and it is not something that we can resolve on our own,” Konoe said. “Fairness and speediness do not go together easily.”
Saundra Schimmelpfennig, a relief worker in Asia and former American Red Cross program coordinator, tells Marketplace she’s not surprised the money is sitting.
“I think that the average person has misconceptions about how quickly you can truly respond well to a disaster, and there have been numerous instances where spending the money quickly is not spending it well.”
She says in addition to initial setup complications, other obstacles include distribution criteria and logistics — managing money transfers and determining whether to split aid based on need, family size or other factors, for example.
“There’s been lots and lots of examples of past disasters that have shown that there really needs to be a coordinated thought-out response with the local people having some decision-making in it.”
A Brief History of the American Red Cross
Clara Barton and a circle of acquaintances founded the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. on May 21, 1881. Barton first heard of the Swiss-inspired International Red Cross Movement while visiting Europe following the Civil War. Returning home, she campaigned for an American Red Cross society and for ratification of the Geneva Convention protecting the war-injured, which the United States ratified in 1882.
Barton headed the Red Cross for 23 years, during which time it conducted its first domestic and overseas disaster relief efforts, aided the United States military during the Spanish-American War, and campaigned successfully for the inclusion of peacetime relief work as part of the International Red Cross Movement-the so-called “American Amendment” that initially met with some resistance in Europe.
The Red Cross received its first congressional charter in 1900 and a second in 1905, the year after Barton resigned from the organization. This charter-which remains in effect today-sets forth the purposes of the organization that include giving relief to and serving as a medium of communication between members of the American armed forces and their families and providing national and international disaster relief and mitigation.
Prior to the First World War, the Red Cross introduced its first aid, water safety, and public health nursing programs. With the outbreak of war, the organization experienced phenomenal growth. The number of local chapters jumped from 107 in 1914 to 3,864 in 1918 and membership grew from 17,000 to more than 20 million adult and 11 million Junior Red Cross members. The public contributed $400 million in funds and material to support Red Cross programs, including those for American and Allied forces and civilian refugees. The Red Cross staffed hospitals and ambulance companies and recruited 20,000 registered nurses to serve the military. Additional Red Cross nurses came forward to combat the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918.
After the war, the Red Cross focused on service to veterans and enhanced its programs in safety training, accident prevention, home care for the sick and nutrition education. It also provided relief for victims of such major disasters as the Mississippi River floods in 1927 and severe drought and the Depression during the 1930s.
The Second World War called upon the Red Cross to provide extensive services once again to the U.S. military, Allies, and civilian war victims. It enrolled more than 104,000 nurses for military service, prepared 27 million packages for American and Allied prisoners of war, and shipped more than 300,000 tons of supplies overseas. At the military’s request, the Red Cross also initiated a national blood program that collected 13.3 million pints of blood for use by the armed forces.
After World War II, the Red Cross introduced the first nationwide civilian blood program that now supplies nearly 50 percent of the blood and blood products in this country. The Red Cross expanded its role in biomedical research and entered the new field of human tissue banking and distribution. During the 1990s, it engineered a massive modernization of its blood services operations to improve the safety of its blood products. It continued to provide services to members of the armed forces and their families, including during the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf wars. The Red Cross also expanded its services into such fields as civil defense, CPR/AED training, HIV/AIDS education, and the provision of emotional care and support to disaster victims and their survivors. It helped the federal government form the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and serves as its principal supplier of mass care in federally declared disasters.
While closely associated with the federal government in the promotion of its objectives, the Red Cross is an independent, volunteer-led organization, financially supported by voluntary public contributions and cost-reimbursement charges. A 50-member, all volunteer Board of Governors leads the organization. The president of the United States, who is honorary chairman of the Red Cross, appoints eight governors, including the chairman of the board. The chairman nominates and the board elects the president of the Red Cross who is responsible for carrying into effect the policies and programs of the board. The American Red Cross works closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross on matters of international conflict and social, political, and military unrest. As a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which it helped found in 1919, the American Red Cross joins more than 175 other national societies in bringing aid to victims of disasters throughout the world.

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