Hurricane Matthew has come and gone, but it has left one country, Haiti, in ruins. Just like in the aftermath of many disasters, we will see a flood of emergency aid and disaster relief pour into this country; Many have good intentions and a strong desire to help. This is a good thing. It’s important that people rally around each other in times of need. The problem arises when this becomes the permanent model.
This is the core theme of a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, written shortly after the storm was over. Mary Anastasia O’Grady, a writer at WSJ, says this:
If people are living in tin-roof shacks when a hurricane hits, ruin is predictable. But why are so many Haitians still living in such dire poverty in the 21st century?
Paradoxically, the answer may be tied to the way in which humanitarian aid, necessary and welcome in an emergency, easily morphs into permanent charity, which undermines local markets and spawns dependency.
That’s the lesson in the 2015 documentary “Poverty, Inc.” produced by the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Acton Institute. As the title suggests, administering to the poor is now a big business that works to sustain itself. Less obvious are the destructive unintended consequences of its intervention. The 91-minute film should be required viewing for every church’s social-justice committee in the U.S.
O’Grady continues on in her op-ed using the message of Poverty, Inc. and quotes from its speakers as she writes. She highlights the story of Jean-Ronel Noel, a business owner who started a solar panel company that at its peak employed 60 people but after the 2010 earthquake, couldn’t compete with NGOs who were offering free solar panels.
Mr. Noel zeroes in on another related problem: “Those NGOs are changing the mentality of the people. Now you have a generation with a dependency mentality.”
When the cleanup from Matthew finishes, aid groups should start packing their bags. The best way of showing we care is to provide emergency relief and then leave Haiti to Haitians.
You can read the full op-ed in the Wall Street Journal here.