NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana residents and evacuees were left hungry, thirsty and without medical attention by the government-funded organization that was supposed to help them — the Red Cross – following major flooding in the state during August.
State and local officials are charging that the Red Cross failed for nearly two weeks in its mission to help flood victims in Louisiana, according to ProPublica and local media reports.
“They failed for 12 days,” the director of a state children’s agency wrote, listing the problems: “Food. Donations management. Under staffed.”
ProPublica obtained hundreds of documents and emails between officials through a Freedom of Information request.
- One shelter had no food or water for 24 hours.
- A woman gave birth with no medical assistance at a shelter.
- In one instance the Red Cross provided only 195 meals out of 500 because its workers were late. “People were pretty much just dumped there and forgotten about,” a nonprofit director, Janet Rhodus, told ProPublica. “I just happened to stop in and volunteer and I was appalled.”
- Many residents are still sleeping in tents, cars or in mold-filled homes.
- Volunteers at a shelter in Baton Rouge had to pay for baby formula out of pocket because supplies were low. Incredibly, a manufacturer had donated a truckload of baby formula that sat unused in a Red Cross warehouse while infants went hungry.
- People staying at a 10,000-person shelter in Baton Rouge only received one hot meal per day from the Red Cross.
“I was there the night the River Center [in Baton Rouge] opened,” state Rep. Ted James told ProPublica. “It was strangely ironic that they are getting an ungodly amount of money and they didn’t have the manpower to help.”
In September, the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security said the organization’s “poor performance in disaster response activities across the country has called into question Red Cross’ ability to meet its responsibilities.”
What is most disturbing is that the breakdown in Louisiana is only the latest example of how the Red Cross has failed disaster victims. ProPublica has compiled a whole series of articles chronicling the nonprofit’s inability to help disaster victims.
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