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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

File Under "Nothing is as Simple as it Seems"

Following the earthquake in Haiti, massive amounts of aid flooded the island nation. Compassion for hurting people brought food and immediate medical care to the people of Haiti, filling the gap left by the destruction.

Foreign aid has a downside, however, which this article in the Miami Herald reveals. Because of the influx of free medical care in the aftermath of the earthquake, Haitian hospitals are losing money and forced to lay-off staff to stay afloat. Their potential customers are receiving care from free, charitable clinics and the hospitals are losing the revenue they need to pay their bills and stay afloat.

This reminded me of the mosquito-net example given by Dambisa Moyo, the author of Dead Aid, in a Wall Street Journal article from March 2009:
Even what may appear as a benign intervention on the surface can have damning consequences. Say there is a mosquito-net maker in small-town Africa. Say he employs 10 people who together manufacture 500 nets a week. Typically, these 10 employees support upward of 15 relatives each. A Western government-inspired program generously supplies the affected region with 100,000 free mosquito nets. This promptly puts the mosquito net manufacturer out of business, and now his 10 employees can no longer support their 150 dependents. In a couple of years, most of the donated nets will be torn and useless, but now there is no mosquito net maker to go to. They'll have to get more aid.
The issue of Aid with a capital-A (Ms. Moyo is largely discussing foreign government aid on the macro level rather than the micro level) is far more complex that one first imagines.

Compassion for individuals compels us to do something, and yet our impulses often end up worsening the situation for those individuals in the long term.

It is a vexing problem without a neat and tidy solution but my take-away principle is this: Whenever possible use local supply-lines to provide aid to people in developing nations. In other words, provide the  nets, but buy them there.

5 comments:

MagistraCarminum said...

Amy- this is a good example of what I've been reading about in the book When Helping hurts by Corbett and Fickert from the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College. They have written about a biblical definition of poverty, and talk about the proper way to go about relief, rehabilitation and development. It is great stuff, and I am also attending a webinar series by the authors 9free, and you can find out about it here: http://chalmers.org/when-helping-hurts/webinar/schedule.php
It is excellent food for thought, not just as we go about economic development, but as we give our money more thoughtfully!

Mrs. Edwards said...

Thank you for this tip! I just spent some time exploring the Chalmers website and was very intrigued. I'd like to listen to some of the webinars as well. I remember you blogging about it, but haven't bee able to follow up until now.

Alicia Butler said...

Amy:

This is why I was so intrigued with Kiva.com (I became aware of this organization last year when the founder spoke at the Leadership Summit.) Their whole focus is on donating money for micro-business loans in third world countries. I think the return rate on the loans is like 80 percent. Pretty phenomenal. Check it out. Kiva.com

Alicia

Alicia Butler said...

A word of clarification... Kiva.com is not a "christian only" organization. And I still think as Christians we are commanded to give to the poor...but on a grand scale, I thin kiva.com has the right ideas... Like the old saying "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." Same thoughts...good ideas. Okay, I will shut up now.

Mrs. Edwards said...

Alicia~
It is great to have a comment from you! I did remember that one of the Leadership Summit speakers last year had some good things to say about aid and it was very similar to Moyo's thinking, but I couldn't recall the speaker.

I'll check out Kiva.com. Thanks for the tip!
Amy

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