How Global Earthquake Relief Left Haiti In Worse Shape Than Ever

Mar 8, 2016

A United Nations peacekeeper assists a child after Haiti's earthquake in January, 2010.
Credit Patrick Farrell

On Jan. 12, 2010, former Associated Press reporter Jonathan Katz was the only full-time American correspondent in Haiti when the earthquake hit. The massive quake left hundreds of thousands of people dead and more than a million homeless.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, foreign aid was pledged from all corners of the world. But six years after the devastating earthquake --  in spite of the combined efforts of international aid organizations, foreign governments and Haiti's own leaders – Haiti is still struggling to rebuild.

Katz stayed there throughout much of the global relief response and the beginning reconstruction efforts. What he witnessed and researched became the basis for his book, “The Big Truck That Went By: How The World Came To Save Haiti And Left Behind A Disaster.”

Katz says that within just a few days of the quake, it became apparent the global relief effort was not delivering on its promises. His book tackles a number of questions:

  • Billions of dollars in aid funds were raised through private donations alone. But where did all that money go?
  • How did United Nations peacekeeping troops cause the current cholera epidemic in Haiti? And why won’t the UN take responsibility for it?
  • What can be done in the future to make sure that future global aid efforts are better organized?

Katz was in Miami to kick off The Big Read,organized by the Miami Book Fair. The Big Read is a national literary event designed to get members of a community reading about one topic. This year, the focus is on Haiti and the Haitian-American experience. It's taking place throughout the month of March.