Aid does help in some situations but I believe trade is the best option for aiding development. Trade helps developing countries to develop and globalise in to the world market improving trade relations which is much more long term source of money than aid. Aid is mainly useful after a natural disaster while trade is useful for just all round improving the counties economy on a normal situation.
With the exception of times of extreme crisis, it's better to provide opportunities for trade and economic development. Aid does not always go to the people who need it, and is associated with government corruption and special interests. Trade also has these issues, but to a lesser extent as partnerships can be set up directly.
Aid is really unnecessary, as every nation on the planet has natural resources to be able to produce goods and services. Aid should only be given in times of instability and crisis. Generally speaking, aid can stimulate a local economy, but not as much as trade. Aid can go to either wealthy people in a nation, or to feeding the poor, but trade opens up opportunities for all. Even those without the ability to trade directly, they may gain employment. There are examples of this all over the world. Trade is far better for developing countries than aid.
Greater levels and diversity of trade -- as opposed to aid -- to countries foster a stronger economy for both countries involved in trade. Countries engaged in trade increase the level of development in infrastructure within the country to support the trade, the country learns how to stand on its own strengths, and a culture of innovation and competitiveness is fostered.
Both potential investors and trade partners invest their capital into developing states for their own potential profit (be it access to raw materials or the opening of a new market), and not for the potential benefit of these developing countries. In cases where development of infrastructure (for example) is funded through foreign direct investment (FDI), these structures often serve mainly extractive purposes. Both aid & trade can be catalysts for development in less developed countries (LDCs), yet they have to be enjoyed with caution.
Aid is given to a country to be well apportioned against their need. On the other hand, trade is treated as an inefficient distributor of resources. The benefit of trade is mostly confined within elite group of people of the country.
Aid is not always provided in the form of money and is sometimes provided through expert advisors.
On the other hand, trade needs a good infrastructure of the country to prosper. It is very difficult for the developing countries to maintain a good infrastructure.
Aid allows for money in a given country to be allocated well against need.
Exposing fragile developing economies to free trade is very risky.
Trade needs investment first.
While I do believe that countries benefit from trade, I think when times are the most rough, aid is more important. For instance, when there was the tsunami, people were left with nothing. They had nothing to trade. Without medical aid, water, food, shelter, and clothes, people would have been helpless and hopeless.