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Haiti: The Aid Dilemma

In the aftermath of January's devastating earthquake in Haiti, post-disaster relief is creating a new kind of problem for businesses there. The massive influx of food aid has altered the price of rice, throwing the delicate balance in Haiti's food supply chain out of whack and threatening to collapse the country's rice market. It's the kind of problem that can turn a one-time disaster into a crisis that lasts years.

But international aid organizations like the U.N.'s World Food Programme are trying out a new method of delivering relief that they hope will avoid that problem.

"It's a simple idea," says reporter Adam Davidson of NPR's Planet Money. "If people are hungry, don't give them rice. Give them money to buy rice, or vouchers that amount to the same thing. That way, instead of destroying [local] business, you strengthen it."

But as Davidson and producer Travis Fox discover in their story The Aid Dilemma -- part of a unique and ongoing partnership between NPR and FRONTLINE -- a simple idea can quickly turn complicated.


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