Press release -

How your donations to British Red Cross helped after Haiti

On 12 January 2010 Haiti was devastated by its worst earthquake in 200 years. The devastating quake measured 7.3 on the Richter scale. According to government estimates more than 220,000 people died – around 1.9 per cent of the Haitian population – and a further 1.3 million people became homeless.

People all over the world responded with staggering generosity. Fundraising events and collections sprang up on every corner. There was an outpouring of public sympathy for the Haitians, which manifested itself in millions of pounds of aid.

Whether it was attending a Hip-hop for Haiti club night or slipping a pound into a supermarket collection box, few people escaped the frenzy of giving which followed the earthquake. But, when the fundraiser is over, where does all the money really go?

Aid in action

Take the British Red Cross Appeal: it alone raised £11.9 million in donations. That seems – at first glance – like an awful lot of money to spend effectively. Yet, when you look at the sheer scale and breadth of the work being done, it is clear that every penny is being stretched to its full potential.

Six months after the disaster, the Red Cross had already shipped 13,000 tonnes of aid. Within a year, it had reached one million people with food and other emergency supplies.

But emergency response is just the beginning. While spending appeal funds on a huge crate of aid is a vital – and visible – part of the process, other more targeted and innovative methods are equally central to rebuilding people’s lives.

Preventing cholera

In October 2010, when cholera broke out in Haiti, the Red Cross got to work distributing fresh water and treating thousands of people who had been affected by the disease. But it also sent out millions of SMS messages with hygiene tips.

This simple strategy helped target people living in at-risk areas, giving them the information to prevent life-threatening diseases such as cholera. By using local radio networks, newspapers and other media the Red Cross could ensure the health information reached as many people as possible.

Distributing cash grants

Similarly, while shipping supplies of food, medicine and other aid is an essential part of disaster response, there comes a point when unconditional cash grants can be a far more effective way of helping. By giving money directly to displaced households, they were able to choose how best to spend it.

A mother with two children may scrimp on her own grocery shopping to provide for their education; an elderly couple will need food and medicine more than nappies and formula milk. With a limited amount of money available, it is crucial that it is well-spent. These are difficult decisions, but nobody will prioritise people’s needs better than the people themselves.

Developing skills

While text messages and cash grants may seem less tangible than a shipment of food, they are a crucial part of the recovery process. Information can help prevent the spread of disease and cash can help people to make the choices that affect their lives. It is important to ensure that Haiti’s survivors will be left with the knowledge, the skills and the means to become self-sufficient.

In the end, this is why the public entrust their donations to the British Red Cross. Recovery in Haiti will be a struggle for years to come, but people know that the Red Cross will be there throughout the recovery process, working to give Haitians the best possible future.


  • Social issues

Find out more about the British Red Cross and disaster relief