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Development Assistance: Well Worth the Money

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof offers us another striking statistic to support poverty-focused development assistance:

Yesterday, his column focused on Susan Retik and Patti Quigley, who lost their husbands in the September 11th attacks and responded by starting an organization, Beyond the 11th, to help some of Afghanistan’s half-million widows.  So far, they’ve reached more than 1,000 women with microfinance and other development initiatives.

Here’s how Kristof describes it:

“Beyond the 11th began by buying small chicken flocks for widows so that they could sell eggs. Another major project was to build a women’s center in the city of Bamian, where the women weave carpets for export. The center, overseen by an aid group called Arzu, also offers literacy classes and operates a bakery as a business.

“Another initiative has been to train Afghan women, through a group called Business Council for Peace, to run a soccer ball manufacturing company. The bosses have been coached in quality control, inventory management and other skills, and they have recruited unemployed widows to stitch the balls — which are beginning to be exported under the brand Dosti.

“Ms. Retik’s next step will be to sponsor a microfinance program through CARE. There are also plans to train attendants to help reduce deaths in childbirth.”

Here’s what struck me:

“All the work that Beyond the 11th has done in Afghanistan over nine years has cost less than keeping a single American soldier in Afghanistan for eight months.”

Wow. That should help us make our point that development assistance is cost-effective.

To learn more about Beyond the 11th, watch “Beyond Belief,” a documentary featuring a visit by Relik and Quigley to Afghanistan to meet some of the women involved with the group.


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