Monday, October 25, 2010


People like to claim that foreign aid doesn't work. Obviously it doesn't always work as well as we hoped. But sometimes it succeeds in invisible ways.

This week, cholera hit Haiti. Know what's amazing? That it didn't hit sooner. Since the earthquake in January, the country has been crowded with tent cities. Sanitation is a real problem, and waterborne disease was always a huge risk. When I worked at Oxfam, donors were sometimes puzzled that we focused more on water than on food. Cholera is why. Yes, it's important that there were agencies dealing with food. But the fact that Oxfam and others were digging latrines and trucking in water are the reason there's been so little disease in Haiti since the earthquake.

Clean water isn't that exciting, especially to those of us who have constant access to it. We can understand hunger, but we've never watched a child die from diarrhea. And an absence of disease doesn't make for news stories. There are no headlines proclaiming "No Typhoid Again Today In Port-Au-Prince."

This is why aid matters, even when you can't see it.

No comments: