Often on short term mission trips, visitors experience material poverty and it feels like a crisis situation because it is so different from what their living situation is. For the people living in material poverty, their situation is most likely a chronic situation and not a crisis situation. This is why understanding the difference between relief and development and when each is needed is so critical. Bob Lupton helps us understand this. Chronic Poverty is long term material poverty. A situation where a family or individual is in a state of material poverty over a long period of time. Crisis situations occur when an unexpected natural or man – made situation happens. A crisis can be measured by a 6 week cycle of stabilization; after 6 weeks the situation becomes chronic.
Some guidelines to consider from Bob Lupton:
A CRISIS need demands RELIEF intervention (Think: an earthquake, tsunami, famine, war. The goal is to stop the bleeding.)
A CHRONIC need requires DEVELOPMENT (Think: rebuilding homes, re-starting businesses, rebuilding infrastructure. We have to strengthen capacity.)
Address a CRISIS need with CRISIS intervention and lives are saved. (Think: doctors and medical supplies to treat the wounded, food and water to feed the starving, tents to shelter the refuges, etc.)
Address a CHRONIC need with a CRISIS intervention, and people are harmed. (Think: dependency increases, work-ethic erodes, dignity diminishes.)