Japan Red Cross in hot water over waylaid donations

KOBE — Neither Australian nor British Red Cross officials were told by the Japan Red Cross that some of the more than 20 million yen they donated to victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake would not be given directly to those in need but would instead be set aside to build future disaster facilities.

According to Kiyoshi Igarashi, director of the Japan Red Cross’ international relief division, more than 1.03 billion yen has been received to date from Red Cross organizations in 26 countries. In a report issued in March 1996, the Japan Red Cross states it sent a letter of thanks, an English-language report and a video detailing Red Cross efforts for quake victims to each overseas Red Cross headquarters that sent donations. Australian and British Red Cross officials acknowledged receiving letters of thanks and a general report.

But the report also says that a portion of the money received from abroad will be used to build the Hyogo Prefecture Disaster Treatment Center as well as to purchase emergency vehicles and supplies for future use. Copies of English-language reports that Igarashi said were sent to the various international Red Cross organizations contain no mention of this fact, and the Australian and British Red Cross said they are unaware of the Japan Red Cross’ decision to use their donations in this manner. “Three donations were sent to the Japanese Red Cross. More than 100,000 Australian dollars were sent in February 1995, A$102,000 was sent in June 1995, and A$56,000 was sent in October 1995,” said Vedron Drakulic, public affairs manager of the Australian Red Cross. “This money was collected for victims of the Kobe earthquake. We didn’t know about other uses.”