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Drawing on his own experience as an aid worker and journalist in Somalia and on the disastrous professional relationship there of aid worker Chris Cassidy with the relief organization Save the Children, Maren examines the economic and humanitarian damage done, ironically, by the very organizations that distribute free food or administer development projects in the name of famine relief. Somalia, of course, recently saw one of the world's largest mobilizations of humanitarian aid. But approximately two thirds of food shipments for refugees in Maren's area of Somalia were being stolen. Some of the stolen food was sold on the black market in order to purchase arms, which in turn escalated conflicts, often creating more refugees. Foreign aid destroyed what was left of local markets by flooding the country with cheap or free food, thus ruining the livelihood of many farmers. Others became "rich from food"; one Somali referred to his second wife as "CARE wife," because the overabundance of relief food he sold enabled him to marry again. Free food also created a disincentive for development- project participants. Somali nomads, for instance, traditionally disdainful of farming, were unlikely to take up agriculture when food was plentiful. Throughout, Maren unleashes caustic salvos against the relief industry—with substantiation. The book is tenaciously and passionately researched through interviews with key players and references to primary documents. Much of what Maren uncovers is shocking, some of it surreal. The agency AmeriCares, for instance, often serves corporate rather than relief interests; it sent 17 tons of Pop Tarts to Bosnia and 12,000 Maidenform bras to earthquake victims in Japan.
An uncompromising look at the thriving industry of relief agencies—which may do more harm than good to those they purport to serve.
|On the Spelling of Somali Words||xiii|
|Introduction: Darkness and Light||1|
|2.||Far from Somalia||25|
|5.||Death in Mogadishu||79|
|6.||Crazy with Food||92|
|8.||Selling the Children||136|
|11.||Pigs at a Trough||189|
|12.||Feeding the Famine||203|
|13.||The Mogadishu Line||216|
|14.||The Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone||239|
|15.||Running Toward Rwanda||257|
|16.||Merchants of Peace||270|
Posted February 5, 2003
There are very few books that can claim to fundamentally change the way you see the world. This is one of them. It brutally exposes the hypocrisy, corruption and inefficiency that will destroy forever the reader's attitude about foreign aid and overseas charitable work. A reader who wants to retain his belief in the myth that foreign aid actually benefits the poor and the starving of the third world should NOT read this book. It will shatter your illusions forever. After reading about how aid to third world countries ends up perpetuating the very conditions it is supposed to eradicate, how it enriches the corrupt elites of those countries and helps them consolidate their often violently dictatorial rule, and how a surprisingly large proportion of it ends up in the pockets of those actually running the charities, it becomes clear that foreign aid and charity may be part of the problem instead of the solution.
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Posted July 28, 2013
This book will definitely challenge the way most of us view international aid organizations and domestic charities. Maren gives a thorough and straightforward history of international aid efforts and their true impact in the world. While much of the book is deservedly scathing of some organizations, Michael Maren handles the issue of charitable giving in a balanced and objective way.
After reading The Road to Hell, it's impossible to view international aid in the same way. And that's a good thing. Americans, as a whole, could stand to leave their comfort zones (which include ignorance of international issues). I read this book, for the first time, almost a decade ago and since then I've encouraged countless others to read it as well.
I highly recommend The Road to Hell for anyone who gives, of their time or money, to any charitable organizations.
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Posted March 24, 2010
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