Terrible day. Which may have influenced my response to the UNICEF man who approached me before I got on the bus home. I heard him out, I did, but there he was telling me that my £3 text would feed a child in east Africa for 4 days.
To summarise, I said to him ‘it won’t help’. Here’s why.
I’ve been to east Africa. £3 might feed a child for 4 days. But what about the 4 days after that? And the 4 after that? No one thinks about those because they’re too busy feeling smug for donating the £3 that wouldn’t even pay for their own lunch here in London. UNICEF man even said to me, ‘if you donate then you can have a great weekend and feel good about yourself for making someone’s life a bit better’. So £3 can really make someone’s life a bit better? Really?
Firstly, (and I’m not trying to be a cynic here) on the practical side of things, if I were to donate, I sadly doubt that said individual child I would apparently be feeding would a) see £3 worth of food, or b) not have to share it with their family or be subject to theft by jealous peers.
Secondly, I do honestly believe that the people doing the charity work are doing it all in good faith, and really do think they are helping, but this type of ‘throw money at a problem’ charity is just a plaster. It not only conceals the problem but it prevents a resolution. They say that for a wound to heal it needs fresh air. What is fresh about foreign aid? Foreign aid is not a new thing to the people of east Africa, and guess what, they still need it. How many times have they done Band Aid now? (Just realising the irony of that name in the context of what I’m saying).
My point is, if something works, you don’t have to keep doing it.
After they donate, people get so wrapped up in the fact that they donated in the first place that they forget about the root causes of this crippling poverty, many of which are the legacy of colonialism, and are perpetuated by the modern western world. Most African countries are in debt to rich western governments, and these are debts that they will never be able to pay off without real change; real change that will never happen whilst they are still in debt, still corruptly governed, and still plagued by malaria, AIDS and the pope (or more widely, religion).
These are just a summary of a few of the problems affecting Africa; there are of course many more, and solving them is obviously complex. But that £3 isn’t going anywhere towards a solution.
Sorry for the gloomy post!