Aid for sale in Pakistan as refugees want cash

Needing cash not food, refugees in Pakistan`s flood-ravaged northwest do not have to look far for buyers for their rations.

Last Updated: Aug 31, 2010, 13:48 PM IST

Peshawar: Needing cash not food, refugees in
Pakistan`s flood-ravaged northwest do not have to look far for
buyers for their rations. Outside an aid warehouse, middlemen
buy US-branded oil, flour and biscuits and supply shops across
the city.

The trade is not illegal, but appears to strengthen
arguments by aid groups who say that giving money to those
recovering from disasters or war is often cheaper, more
effective and efficient than doling out food or other
assistance like housing materials, seeds or agricultural
tools.
Some large charities have already begun handing out money
to victims of this summer`s devastating floods and others say
they have plans to so, continuing a trend that began in
earnest after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and has picked up
pace ever since.

But some in the humanitarian community remain resistant
to the idea, especially those in the larger UN agencies, where
there are fears that cash can cause inflation and fuel
corruption. Many Pakistanis apparently share the same concern.

They have preferred to give food, clothes and medicine to
flood victims instead of money because of worries it could be
misused.

The floods started about a month ago in the northwest
after extremely heavy monsoon rains and have slowly surged
south along the Indus River, devastating towns and farmland.

More than 1,600 people have died and 17 million have been
affected by the floods. Water levels are beginning to drop in
southern Pakistan as the floodwaters flow down the Indus River
into the Arabian Sea.
PTI