Food or Money?


I was on my way home the other day and just as we stopped at the traffic lights,it is very common in Pakistan that some young boys looking for money will clean your windscreen in exchange for some few coins.Most of them are homeless and others just trying to earn a living to support their big families by toiling hard.

This young man approached our car and the driver gave him a nod that he could go ahead and clean the windscreen.After he was done and was waiting for his payment and I being very curious to see how much he would get for this job turned out interesting or funny I thought at the time.The driver spoke some words in Urdu and handed the guy some peanuts that he had been eating.The man gladly nodded and went away looking for more cars to clean.The driver later told me that the man had indicated that he is doing that coz he was hungry and since the driver did not have any coins the man accepted the peanuts as payment.

This made me think of the current food crisis and about giving aid to the developing world.What does the poor man at the village need?food or money?Not a very easy answer to give. I read an article of a relief organisation in Kenya which was targeting the school going children and giving them free lunch in school and most of the children would save this food and take it home to share it with the other children.Same case as giving an adult money to buy food;at that instance there are so many competing needs and the money may be channeled into other uses.

Giving money to the suppliers of food in the villages only enhances the hoarding of food and hence the food prices shoot up and what was to be a noble venture becomes a white elephant.The money is in the wrong hands and the poor starve to death.Looking at Kenya and Ethiopia;it is hard to explain that some areas which had recorded bounty harvests were the worst hit by drought and they suffered.Why is this so?The poor farmer in the village will want to sell when everybody else is selling and hence the prices are low.Some few months later the same farmer will go to the market and will want to buy the same commodity which is now at a higher price since it is a scarce commodity.He will actually be paying more for the same produce he sold.

There are many interventions and divergent views on what can be done to save the situation.At the end of the day whether food or money goes out;the poor need the basic calories to create a better tomorrow which is full of hope.


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