There's No Point in Doing Good Badly

To aid is human. But what happens when our relief efforts hurt more than they help?

Gerard Dubois for TIME

Cynicism is among our most punctual instincts. Within days of the earthquake in Haiti, there came warnings of impending compassion fatigue, wagers of how long it would be before we turned away to the Super Bowl, the Olympics and the Oscars, leaving Haiti to misery.

But I don't believe people get tired of helping--only that they get tired of feeling helpless. The challenge arises when we witness what health crusader Paul Farmer calls "stupid deaths": death in childbirth, death by mosquito, death, in the case of Haiti, from infections that spread when crushed limbs aren't amputated fast enough. Help never arrives...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!