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American Red Cross News Conference In Haiti Grows Heated

Haitian journalists pressed an official from the American Red Cross to explain how the charity spent almost half a billion dollars in the country — but got few answers at a news conference this week at Le Plaza Hotel in downtown Port-au-Prince.

Frustrated journalists began talking over the official, Walker Dauphin, after he appeared to avoid providing details explaining where the money went, according to a video of the gathering.

The news conference was a response to NPR's investigation with ProPublica into the charity — which found repeated failures on the organization's part to deliver on promises to help the country rebuild. The charity has so far declined to provide information on what programs it ran, how much they cost or what their expenses were. Many of the statistics the charity has offered about its work have been refuted by Haitian officials and by the Red Cross' own records.

The Red Cross has faced repeated criticism this week from Haitian journalists and officials, including former Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, about its work in the country. In the U.S., Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., has called for hearings into the Red Cross' spending and finances, while local lawmakers in Atlanta protested the charity's use of funds in this heated exchange with a Red Cross official who declined to answer basic questions.

In a statement, Red Cross spokeswoman Jana Sweeney said the organization has always been transparent with donors and the public, and had provided extensive information to leaders in Haiti and in the U.S.

"The Red Cross is happy to talk with any member of Congress who has questions about our relief work in Haiti, or elsewhere," Sweeney said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laura Sullivan is an NPR News investigative correspondent whose work has cast a light on some of the country's most significant issues.
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