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Haiti is now believed to have more NGOs than any other country—as many as 10,000. That’s a good thing, right? After all, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere seems to be pounded by a new natural disaster or disease outbreak every few months. But debate over the benefit of so many NGOs is growing, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal:
“Defenders of NGOs say there is no choice but to work through charities given the inefficiency and alleged corruption of Haiti’s government. ... Critics say the NGOs have put Haiti in a Catch-22: By building a parallel state that is more powerful than Haiti’s own government, aid groups are ensuring Haiti never develops and remains dependent on charities.”
The article, paraphrasing an advisor to the prime minister, says that “the NGO presence has permanently ‘infantilized’ the country, creating a vicious cycle: The government lacks the money—and historically, the inclination—to provide social services. Those services, therefore, are provided by NGOs, which means the government, in turn, has no incentive to improve.”
What’s the solution, then? Kick out all the NGOs? No, because there are plenty of good NGO’s doing good work in Haiti.
Leave it up to Dr. Paul Farmer, medical superhero and founder of Partners in Health, to come up with a controversial solution. Farmer suggests channeling some of the aid money through the government, thereby improving the state while also making it more accountable.
For a harsher view of all the new NGOs that have inundated Haiti in the last year, read Rory Carroll’s blog post from The Guardian, “Save haiti from aid tourists.” There’s really no way around it—you’ll either nod your head in agreement with him or you’ll be sorely offended. Which was it for you?

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