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Haiti’s complicated history with foreign aid

Kai Ryssdal Oct 10, 2016
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UN blue helmets load aid which arrived in US helicopters onto a truck for people affected by Hurricane Matthew, in Jeremie, southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on October 10, 2016. Haiti's death toll from monster Hurricane Matthew has risen to 372, civil defense officials said Monday, as the impoverished country continues to dig out of massive destruction in the south. More than 175,500 people were staying in temporary shelters, days after the Caribbean's worst storm in nearly a decade slammed into Haiti last Tuesday. 
RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images

The latest news out of Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew is not good. As many as a thousand people dead, whole towns wiped out and a looming cholera outbreak. A lot of people have been thinking about how they might help and there are plenty of organizations gearing up to take donations.

But Haiti has had a complicated history, when it comes to aid. Jonathan M. Katz was the Associated Press bureau chief in Haiti during the earthquake 6 years ago.

His book about that quake and the aid that followed is called “The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.” Kai Ryssdal spoke with Katz about what we learned from how aid was administered in 2010 and after.

On how aid gets administered:

I think there’s some fundamental misunderstandings about the way aid works… We have this humanitarian aid industry and that industry is constantly functioning, it just gets into a slightly higher gear … And really, the work that those aid groups do, is never really intended to make the long-term systemic differences necessary in order to face the next disaster to come.   

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