- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Free Press (July 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743227867
- ISBN-13: 978-0743227865
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #915,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Road to Hell Paperback – July 1, 2002
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Before you mail another check to Save the Children or join the Peace Corps, read this book. Michael Maren shows that the international aid industry is a big business more concerned with winning its next big government contract than helping needy people. The problem isn't a lack of charity missions in the Third World, but that the best intentions of these idealists are often inadvertently destructive, thanks to a deadly combination of their naiveté and the willingness of native elites to exploit them. Maren spent many years in Africa living this life. This is a splendid, literate, muckraking memoir of his experiences. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Despite the overstated title, this book is a forceful and disturbing portrait of Western intervention in Somalia, plus an investigation of underscrutinized aid foundations. Perhaps because of the book's ambition, Maren's narrative is disjointed, but readers will find it worth the effort. "[D]oing relief and development work in the context of oppression is counterproductive," he asserts, and his personal experience in Somalia, where, after a Peace Corps stint in Kenya, he returned as an aid worker and journalist, bears this out. While the Cold War fueled aid to Somalia, much of the aid was channeled by local power brokers to further their own ends. Indeed, while Somalia was once self-sufficient, it is now chronically dependent on imports of foreign food. Maren is equally scathing about prominent charities such as CARE and Save the Children, which he terms mercenaries more concerned with self-perpetuation than actual famine relief. CARE, he charges, once shipped food to armed fighters in Somalia, while Save the Children "projects don't work." His portrait of the aid biz emphasizes that it is driven mainly by grain-trading companies eager to unload excess capacity, even as their advertisements feature starving victims. Maren's brief report from Rwanda suggests that there, too, aid is falling into the wrong hands and thus financing a war. Maren maintains that journalists are too dependent on such aid organizations to properly evaluate them, and he proposes that an independent agency be established for that purpose.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Unfortunately the narrative is choppy, sometimes hard to follow and deadened by far too many details and scattered pacing. STILL anyone considering going into the field of international development should read this, as should anyone who donates to international aid organizations.
But, that shouldn't keep you from reading this book. In fact, given the current famine in East Africa (2011) it should be a must read for those who want to do good without causing harm.
The book is to some extent journalist and fragmented. It looks at the stories of different characters. One Chis Cassidy for instance was an aid worker who headed a project to irrigate some land. He has to battle rampant corruption, the incredibly poor planning of the project and continual attempts to undermine it. In the end despite his talent and passion for the job he fails and the money put into the project is simply lost. Millions and dollars whose only achievement is to enrich some aid workers and government officials. Cassidy is a tragic case and in the end he leaves Africa after one of his children is murdered to warn him off.
The book also looks at how private charity works. How much of it goes to the charity organisation and how little to the target population. What aid that does go to the target population is so poorly distributed it achieves nothing.
The main work of the book is to look at the overall situation in Somalia and the mechanics of aid. The story which was revealed to the public was that due to a war between Somalia and Ethiopia large numbers of ethic Somalias had been forced to flee from their homes and were starving in refugee camps. As a result international agencies sent in huge amounts of food. The author reveals how the crisis was engineered by the then corrupt Somali government. That the numbers of refugees was at all times exaggerated. That the motive of the government in creating the crisis was to be able to steal large amounts of the food aid and to make money out of selling it. That the image of starving refugees was created by photographing children who were victims of dysentery and other diseases rather than facing starvation. How the importation of food distorted the economy and broke apart the relationships which used to keep Somalia to some extent a unified society.
The book is a devestating portrait of how flawed the aid industry is and the sorts of reasons why it is useless. It is also an interesting book to read along side Black Hawk down the recently released popular history of the military adventure which went so badly wrong. This book provides the political background to understand how flawed that entire mission was. A worthwhile book to read but one that it gripping like a novel and hard to put down.
Most recent customer reviews
the subject is one that really interests me and my travels abroad