Katz argues that the Haitian government has been so left out of the loop, and received so little direct aid, that it has not had a chance to prove its worth. It’s a vicious cycle: The fact that so much of the money goes to groups outside the government keeps it from ever gaining strength, ability or the confidence of its people.
Sadly, this was the case long before the earthquake — aid groups have long proliferated in Haiti while the government is barely functional. The situation begs the question: Is their longevity in Haiti something aid organizations should boast of? After all, if they'd done their job, would they even need to be there anymore?
‘‘The Big Truck That Went By’’ is hardly a statistical analysis or a mere policy book. It probably could have devoted a hundred more pages to the question of aid and remained riveting. Instead, Katz elegantly uses personal anecdotes and the stories of Haitians whose lives were turned upside down to paint a portrait of a struggling yet beguiling country.
He also includes dollops of history for the novices among us, background that anyone with a rosy view of U.S. intervention should read carefully. In one of the most interesting sections, Katz describes investigating what led to the cholera outbreak in Haiti months after the earthquake, proving almost beyond any doubt that the illness was imported by U.N. troops — something for which he says the world body has yet to be held accountable.
One hopes that the policymakers involved in helping Haiti read this book and take it to heart. The people of Haiti certainly deserve better than what they've been getting.
Follow Nahal Toosi on Twitter at twitter.com/nahaltoosi.