Philadelphia, PA USA
The Geneva based Red Cross Federation says aid money amounting to over $8 million USD in Ebola assistance cannot be accounted due to fraud and corruption in West Africa.
In a rather stunning admission to the BBC on Friday, the global humanitarian organization says it conducted a financial audit and discovered that about $2.7 million USD disappeared in what was referred to as ‘fraudulently overpriced supplies, or salaries for non-existent aid workers of the local Red Cross office in Liberia.
Corrupt Red Cross staff in Sierra Leone reportedly colluded with local bank employees to illegally siphon off about $2 million USD while fake custom bills in Guinea led to the loss of about $1 million dollars.
The Red Cross says it regrets the financial loss of aid money and has instituted stricter financial controls to avoid a repeat. Red Cross staff involved will be held to account, the organization said.
In March, 2016, police in Liberia closed the local Red Cross office following dismissal of the entire Board of Directors, Secretary General and Head of Program by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. An investigation by Liberian authorities revealed that donor funds amount to $1.8 million dollars were missing and unaccounted for.
At the time, Reuters quoted a spokesperson for the the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Switzerland as saying it had undertaken an audit of the Liberian member organization in 2015 and “…we found some irregularities and that led to an investigation.”
In an investigative report entitled, Lost on the Ebola Money Trail, published in 2015 on the Humanopsphere website, science journalist Amy Maxmen wrote that “…Far more than $3 million in foreign aid contributions have been donated in support of the Ebola response and much of it appears to have never reached the intended recipients in Sierra Leone…”
According to Ms. Maxmen, the United Nation’s online financial tracker from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs puts Ebola donations to West Africa at $3.3 billion. According to this source, the US government donated 1.58 billion.
Beginning in March, 2014, the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone experienced the largest devastation of the Ebola epidemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 11,300 persons died before the outbreak was deemed over in March, 2016.
About 4,800 of the Ebola casualty were recorded in Liberia.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) denotes Symptoms of Ebola to include:
Abdominal (stomach) pain
Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days. Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.
No one has been prosecuted for the disappearance of Ebola donor funds in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.
By Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal Magazine