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How $6 Million to Fight Ebola Disappeared from the Red Cross

Doctors in Liberia dealing with the Ebola epidemic. Photograph by Reuters

In 2014, Ebola tore through West Africa. The epidemic lasted more than two years, killed more than 11,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, and posed one of the most prominent global health challenges to the worldwide medical industry in many years. But at least $6 million meant to fight the deadly virus was wasted by Red Cross workers and other players through fraud, according to the results of an internal investigation by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IRFC).

The investigation examined how $124 million appropriated to combat Ebola’s spread in the region had been used by Red Cross and its partners. It revealed that millions of dollars had likely been wasted through: “Likely collusion” between Red Cross workers and local employees at a bank in Sierra Leone involving improperly fixed exchange rates; inflated prices for certain relief items and payroll; and other types of fraudulent billing. In response, the IRFC says it will significantly bolster its anti-corruption efforts and move to recover money wasted through fraud.

The world health community has been criticized for what many called a slow response to the 2014 Ebola crisis. The IRFC points out that the kind of intentional fraud unveiled in the investigation only adds to the many challenges of fighting these outbreaks.

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