The Difference Between Relief & Development
The first step that must be taken in poverty alleviation is to determine whether people who are poor are in a context that requires relief, rehabilitation or development. A failure to distinguish between these three very different scenarios can result in doing considerable harm to the poor and to ourselves.
Relief is the appropriate intervention when a crisis such as a tsunami plunges people into a downward spiral leaving them within a context in which they are unable to help themselves. The appropriate response to such a situation is to provide immediate, temporary aid to stop the bleeding of the powerless victims.
Rehabilitation is the correct intervention when people are able to participate in returning their lives to pre-crisis levels. A good example of this context would be the situation in Indonesia six months after the tsunami hit.
Development is a context in which people are able to participate in improving their lives above the status quo level by experiencing reconciliation in their four fundamental relationships.
Unfortunately, many Christians fail to recognize that “not all poverty is created equal,” and treat all situations as though they are relief contexts when the vast majority of situations require rehabilitation or development. As a result, handouts are given to poor people who are capable of helping themselves, further marring their self-identity by increasing their shame and undermining their capacity to be stewards over creation. Because of this, the poor and those who inappropriately provided relief are poorer than ever before. Christians must have basic guidelines for discerning whether relief, rehabilitation, or development is the appropriate intervention in any context.
To learn more, read the article “Relief and Development: The Distinction is More Than Academic” found in Issue #3 of the 2007 edition of Mandate.