Thursday, July 5, 2007

Money for food

"You've just finished piling the weekly shop into your trolley. You've been good, resisting the gourmet purchases and just buying the basics. So when the total flashes up on the till, you look quizzically at the cashier: £1,700! There must be some mistake. Well not if you're living in Bangladesh.

New research from the British charity Save the Children, shows that if a Bangladeshi family wanted to eat a simple nutritious diet, they would have to spend three times their salary on food. That's like the average British family - which according to official figures has an annual income of £29,000 - running up a £1,700 bill at the supermarket each week.

So what is to be done? Perhaps surprisingly, Save the Children is pushing for a change in mentality, where aid donations are given in cash straight to families on the ground (rather like the child benefit system in place in the UK) instead of being converted into food parcels.

"This way of providing assistance to the poorest families really works. I've seen it in action. All the evidence shows that not only do poor people spend their money sensibly but that the first, and often most substantial, investment they make is to buy more and better quality food for their children," said Ms de Toma." (Thanks Rania)

For all of us involved in relief work around the Nahr el Bared crisis, this is a really important thing to consider. We would spend much less time putting together hygiene packs and food packs, the content of which is decided by us. This time could be used more appropriately. Giving money to people to buy the food they like and they need should really be considered very seriously. Why don't we give them money straight? Is it because we do not trust them to make the right choice for them? Why should we not trust them?

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