ape Arti Chauhan

Support Born Free which investigates to stop the bushmeat trade to help African animals, placing rescued apes in sanctuaries. Image by Arti Chauhan.

‘Helping developing countries’ sounds a bit patronising, doesn’t it? Some people in Africa for instance are extremely angry at images portrayed of people with begging bowls, and also of westerners sending all their trash over there, when they don’t have the technology to safely deal with it. The Bakoteh rubbish dump is renowned for causing health problems from pollution, due to electrical waste sent from the west.

Likewise, corporate companies here ask us to ‘buy free sanitary towels’ to help girls in Africa study, rather than having to miss school due to lack of products for menstruation. Not forgetting that lack of sewage facilities (and a huge problem with HIV/AIDS) means sending items that may be shared (with blood) and then having nowhere to put them, does not make sense. When it gets really silly, is when we learn that African people themselves are making biodegradable sanitary pads (creating local jobs) from papryus leaves, so they don’t need us sending them chlorine-bleached tampons anyway.

Developing countries make up a huge area of the world (not just Africa, but also India and parts of central/South America). Around 800,000 people are malnourished, and many die from lack of access to clean safe drinking water. Some mothers are given free formula in hospitals by western companies, then when they leave hospital and can’t afford it, they water it down or mix it with dirty water (World Health Organisation say many babies die, when the mothers could have safely breastfed).

Big charity asks us to give to big charity (not small charities that do more good). We are asked ‘send a cow or goat’ which all experts say is a silly thing to do, as it just creates another mouth to feed and water, and more desertification as crops are eaten. The real charities are helping people to help themselves, by creating training to grow crops and restoring lush vegetatation. Feeding plant foods in emergency situations, feeds way more people per acreage than with livestock.

One of the best ways to help developing countries, is simply by what you don’t buy and what you do. For instance don’t buy items that are made without certificates of welfare (a seamstress in a garment factory in Bangladesh needs you to make clear choices on avoiding certain fashion brands) if you want to empower her.

Buy Fair Trade food and crafted goods, and go through your lifestyle portfolio (from banking to where your shoes are made) so that next time you purchase, you look at who the worker behind who made it is, and how they are treated.

how to help developing countries 

  1. Food for Life Global and A Well Fed World use donations to feed the hungry. The difference is that they use plant foods, which feed far more people per acre than livestock. The latter also has a post on why not to ‘gift animals’ to developing countries.
  2. Power a Life makes compact powerful phone chargers that fit in your pocket, each purchase gifts a solar light to a child in school. This helps prevent chopping forests for firewood, and limits use of kerosene which is both poisonous and a fire hazard.
  3. Kitchen Table Charities Trust was set up by former newsreader John Humphries, who was frustrated at the huge costs spent by big charity. Donations here go to help small projects in developing countries (solar panels, disability equipment, books, grants etc) with not one penny being spent on UK administration.

clean safe water for developing countries

  1. Lifestraw is a personal water filter that needs no electricity, and purifies unsafe water. Some people say this should not be used to ‘make people drink dirty water’, but it’s quick and affordable to save lives, while people wait for others to build wells.
  2. Hipporoller is a simple invention that lets women and children wheel water from wells, rather than walk for miles carrying heavy buckets on their heads (which leads to headaches and weak bones). It’s also quicker, meaning children spend more time in school.

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