On January 12, 2010, the deadliest earthquake in the history of the Western Hemisphere struck the nation least prepared to handle it. Jonathan M. Katz, the only full-time American news correspondent in Haiti, was inside his house when it buckled along with hundreds of thousands of others. In this visceral, authoritative first-hand account, Katz chronicles the terror of that day, the devastation visited on ordinary Haitians, and how the world reacted to a nation in need.
More than half of American adults gave money for Haiti, part of a monumental response totaling $16.3 billion in pledges. But three years later the relief effort has foundered. It's most basic promises—to build safer housing for the homeless, alleviate severe poverty, and strengthen Haiti to face future disasters—remain unfulfilled.
The Big Truck That Went By presents a sharp critique of international aid that defies today's conventional wisdom; that the way wealthy countries give aid makes poor countries seem irredeemably hopeless, while trapping millions in cycles of privation and catastrophe. Katz follows the money to uncover startling truths about how good intentions go wrong, and what can be done to make aid "smarter."
With coverage of Bill Clinton, who came to help lead the reconstruction; movie-star aid worker Sean Penn; Wyclef Jean; Haiti's leaders and people alike, Katz weaves a complex, darkly funny, and unexpected portrait of one of the world's most fascinating countries. The Big Truck That Went By is not only a definitive account of Haiti's earthquake, but of the world we live in today.
Former AP correspondent, now editor, Katz was the only American reporter on the ground when the devastating earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. In his first book, he details the repercussions of the disaster and the vicissitudes of international aid, providing insight into Haitian history and society. Profiles of former president Rene Pr val, Bill Clinton, Sean Penn, and Wyclef Jean emphasize both the gifts and limitations of the people who had the potential to make a significant difference after the earthquake. Katz stresses the value of international aid and the danger of NGOs assuming that Haiti can't govern itself: "It's true that we don't always know what locals will do with that assistance," he notes, "but that's the point. It's up to them." Bloated promises characterized postquake donations: by the end of 2010, billion of a promised $16.3 billion had been delivered; 93% of this money stayed with the U.N. or NGOs, and only 1% ($24 million) was given to the Haitian government. Katz debunks the assumption that a disaster leads to social disintegration or rioting and observes how media sensationalism prompted unwise giving.
The Big Truck That Went By
A great read on three levels. There is the personal level that is told in raw reaction to the mass destruction all around him, with the ability to see small flashes of humor needed to keep his head and report as objectively as possible the horror unfolding.
There is the clear headed historic presentation how Haiti came to be in it's current state. And lastly, the huge shortsightness of how developed nations aid the poorer nations in general and specificly in Haiti. The mistakes made that left Hati in worse shape than before the earthquake (in spite of world wide donations of historic porportion). The book will inevitably raise questions about how we "help" the developing world. Worth the read!