“The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster” (Palgrave Macmillan), by Jonathan M. Katz
After two and one-half years in Haiti, Jonathan Katz was preparing to leave the impoverished but endlessly intriguing nation in January 2010. His next reporting assignment: Afghanistan. Then, a massive earthquake ripped apart his house, his plans and the lives of Haitians all around him.
So Katz, then an Associated Press reporter and the only full-time American correspondent in Haiti, wound up staying to chronicle the aftermath of the temblor. Life in Afghanistan may have been more uplifting.
In “The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster,” Katz eloquently blends personal anecdotes and Haitian history with in-depth reportage to show how one catastrophe led to so many more, and how, three years later, Haiti has barely moved forward.
At the heart of the book lies the question, does foreign aid actually work? Or, to paraphrase Katz, whatever happened to that $20 you sent to help the people of Haiti? The answers are not inspiring, and they should make people seriously think twice about donating to an international aid organization.
For people who live or work in conflict zones where non-governmental organizations and U.N.-linked aid groups operate, Katz’s findings may not be that surprising, simply a reaffirmation of depressing truths. But the ordinary reader will likely be shocked to learn of some of the tricks of the aid trade.