Charities Say World's Poorest Could Be Hard Hit by Financial Crisis

International aid groups are warning that the world's poorest individuals could be hungrier, sicker, and have fewer jobs as a result of the global financial crisis, even as cash-strapped charities are less able to help them, the Associated Press reports.

Aid agencies that provide food, medicine, and other forms of assistance to the poor in the developing world are facing the prospect of a drop in donations, while economic conditions — including higher food prices and joblessness — are greatly increasing the number of individuals who need that assistance. Some groups say they have already begun to implement cutbacks, though it will take months before the full impact of the crisis is felt in the poorest countries of Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

According to Matt Grainger, Oxfam International's head of media, aid spending dropped sharply during global recessions in the 1970s and 1990s and took years to recover to pre-recesssion levels. If a similar scenario plays out during the current downturn, Grainger worries that wealthy donor countries will invest less in and cut back on imports from developing countries, leaving those governments with less money to spend on health care and schools.

Though many groups say it is too early to tell how the crisis will affect donations, a number are taking preventative measures. World Vision has announced plans to cut back hiring until it has more clarity on the likely impact of the crisis, while Catholic Relief Services is waiting to hear from the U.S. Agency for International Development about whether it will receive $2 million for new food-for-work projects before it begins those projects in Haiti.

"It's too soon to tell yet because we haven't heard back positively or negatively from our major donors," said Greg Elder, deputy head of programming for Catholic Relief Services. "It's just we can't start these new projects, these rehabilitation projects, until we get the go-ahead."

Alexander G. Higgins. "Aid Agencies Say World's Poorest Will Be Biggest Victims of World's Financial Crisis." Associated Press 10/14/2008.