As we have seen in the past few years, disaster will strike, we just don’t know when or where. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and man-made disasters are all responsible for destruction and poverty across the globe. When this happens to “third world” countries many people feel the need or desire to help out those in need. The problem comes when the “help” that is given to the impoverished nations ends up hurting them more in the long term. Sometimes good, ethical intentions can turn a natural disaster into and economic one.
One of the biggest issues with “aid” during a time of need is that we are just giving them our leftovers and free stuff. An example of this would be of a local egg farmer in Africa, he started his egg selling business in his town just before an American church group decided to send eggs to that area. The church thought they were doing the ethical or right thing by helping out these people, but what they didn’t realize was that they were crippling this man who was trying to make a living and help the economy. The church did this ministry for a while, but eventually moved on to something different which then left the egg salesman out of a job and crippled the egg economy in this area.
During his time as President of the United States, Bill Clinton pushed for the US to send free rice to the country of Haiti. His intentions were noble; trying to stop the famine and feed the hungry in Haiti. What resulted unintentionally was that the Haitians lacked the ability to be self-sufficient. By sending free rice to Haiti this left no incentive for anyone to try and grow any, and when disaster struck Haiti later in the 2000s they had no agricultural economy to fall back on. Bill Clinton later apologized before congress for his role in crippling there economy.
Countries like the United States like to help out struggling countries that are less developed. This creates something called paternalism which is when rich countries patronize poorer countries and creates a system of dependence that makes it harder for countries to become self-sufficient.
A good metaphor for this whole phenomenon is ‘give an man a fish, vs teaching a man to fish’ obviously it is better to teach a man to fish. In the documentary Poverty Inc. many of the local people who are on the wrong end of paternalism say they appreciate aid but they need the right kind of aid. They do not need free shoes, eggs, or rice, they need jobs, economic development, and self-sufficiency. One African business owner explained that the aid that would benefit them the most is job training and skill development, in addition to business connections that can help them grow their local economy.