haiti: the aid dilemma


Use these lesson extensions to continue discussion of this topic in the classroom.

  • Consider the resilience of the Haitian people when evaluating short- and long-term relief strategies. Watch the FRONTLINE/Planet Money video “The Economy of a Tent City” (length: 5:25) and discuss how Haitians have adapted to their circumstances following the earthquake. What economic activities have they established? What seem to be their immediate needs? Their long-term needs? How should international aid agencies work with Haitians when planning and carrying out relief efforts? Have students research some of the Haitian citizens’ initiatives within the tent cities and determine whether or not they might be sustainable as long-term institutions.
  • Explore the artistic side of the Haitian economy by designing tap-taps. Find out what a tap-tap is by watching the FRONTLINE/Planet Money video “Solving the Tap-Tap Puzzle”. Afterward, have students respond to the following:
    • Why do tap-tap owners pay such a prohibitive cost for such outlandish designs?
    • Describe the economic concept of “signaling” as it applies to Haitian tap-taps.
  • Remind students of The Washington Post article “With Cheap Food Imports, Haiti Can’t Feed Itself.” Ask the class, “Should the United States participate in recovery efforts in Haiti, even if that effort has no short-term resolution?” Ask students to list the pros and cons involved in making such a decision, and make recommendations for U.S. policy both in Haiti and in similar global crises. Some pros and cons could include:
    Pros Cons
    • Strengthening a traditional ally
    • Humanitarian concerns
    • Providing opportunities for U.S. business/enterprise during recovery effort
    • Developing possible responses for future crises
    • Investment of U.S. capital/resources at a time of domestic economic distress
    • Risk of American lives in service of another nation
    • Attempts to help Haiti may backfire by creating reliance on international aid
  • Evaluate further the priorities of humanitarian relief efforts. Begin by having students examine the Principle Commitments of the Code of Conduct developed by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent and other nongovernmental relief agencies. Then have students do the following:
    • Given what the class saw in the video Haiti: The Aid Dilemma, have any of these principles been violated in the recovery efforts in Haiti? Have students offer their analysis as part of a classroom discussion or as a written response.
    • Have the class read the article “Americans Arrested Taking Children Out of Haiti.” Ask students to judge whether the Americans in this case were doing a good thing. How can the international community be sure that disaster relief does not degenerate into abuse?
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