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Permanent tent city: Why giving aid to Haiti fuels a cycle of dependency

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You might think that a daughter of Haiti and the United States (I spent school years in New York and summers Haiti) would be thrilled that her left hand is feeding her right, so to speak; but in fact, I’m horrified.

Foreign aid is reinforcing a tyranny of low expectations in the Haitian people. There is a fine line, it turns out, between resiliency and complacency. Foreign aid is engendering the latter in simultaneously proud yet perpetually disappointed Haitians.

The latest reports of a cholera outbreak spreading from the city of Saint-Marc into the overpopulated capital of Port-au-Prince only reinforce my fears. Over the past 10 months of trauma, mourning, injury and torrential rains, Haitians – many of whom lost their homes made of tin or cement – have once again come to call ad hoc structures “home.”

Tent city: As good as it gets?

In essence, tent cities like those in Place Boyer, and the vast aid they represent (nearly $5.3 billion pledged over the next two years), are providing Haitians with just enough that they don’t demand more. After two centuries of poverty, corruption, and instability, Haitians assume that the silver lining of a natural disaster – temporary tents, medical care, and food – is a gift they should take full advantage of.

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