Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Just a Few More Thoughts....

So I know I said I was done with the topic of poverty for a while, but since the leading Christian magazine's cover article was about poverty this month, well....I figured I should comment on it....just a little bit.

Especially this one:

Cost-Effective Compassion:  The 10 Most Popular Strategies for Helping the Poor

And what is the #1 strategy on this list?  Well Building!  Ha.  Oh, the irony.

So since I am a novice at this stuff, I asked my amazing, community-development friends what they thought of Christianity Today's list, since it seemed to contradict a lot of what I wrote in my series.  I will quote my friends here.

One of my friends said that this list should have labeled, "relief, not development."  The majority of the projects on this list will help to bring relief to poverty, but not lasting development.  You know, like the "give a man a fish" analogy. 

One friend wrote, "The reason that water appears first on the list is that it was the best out of the 10 strategies given, which, if you notice, are not the truly innovative and cutting edge best-practices in the development world.  Each of the strategies mentioned involves a donor GIVING a poor person/country something.  It's not truly transformational development."

Another friend wrote, "[True development] takes an excruciatingly long time of patient teaching/living by example on the ground with them and it definitely does not appeal to quick fix western eyes."

And regarding the top three programs on the list?

Well Building
"We have seen government, missions, NGO's come in an dig a well and the longest it lasts is 2 years and there are no funds to maintain, repair, replace the wells.  The well dies...and then the people are worse off than before with no water source as they have neglected their own open hand dug wells in the meantime....  We have tried to train them inhow to maintain the well, but it wasn't their resources to begin with so they really don't own it and therefore don't care for it.  And then life just goes back to the way it's always been--scrounging for water--but it was nice while it lasted....Teaching them again nothing really can change!  URGHH!!!"

De-worming medication:
"It's interesting that deworming medication shows up on the list.  This is, perhaps, the cheapest medicine in the world.  I think it's something like 2 cents a dose on average.  The program that I worked with in Kenya actually went to schools to SELL the deworming tablets and then parents felt the dignity of providing healthcare for their families.  So why are they recommending funding this medication?"

And mosquito nets:
I didn't ask my friends specifically about this, but as someone who lives in a malaria-infested country, I would ask these questions of the organizations:
Are they using locally-made nets or importing them?
What about the fact that malaria is usually spread during the twilight hours, when people are not under mosquito nets?
How about the growing evidence that spraying houses with DDT is almost eliminating malaria is certain places?

More food for thought.  Don't get me wrong--I love Christianity Today, and since I only read it on-line, maybe the actual magazine's articles gave a more balanced approach to relief and development. 
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