In Pakistan, Naqeebullah holds a sheep while his young sons lean on his shoulders and one of the boys holds another sheep

Naqeebullah, his sheep and two of his sons © Pakistan Red Crescent

The Red Cross may be famous for our food parcels and more traditional forms of aid, but cash grants have long been an integral part of our work. Put simply, cash changes lives.

We’re working with the Pakistan Red Crescent to give cash to people in rural areas of Balochistan Province.

From buying sheep to feeding hungry children, cash gives people the independence to buy whatever they need and helps to stimulate the local economy.

Here are four ways people have used their cash grants.

1. Cash can help secure a family’s future
A close-up portrait of Naqeebullah standing outside his house in Pakistan

Naqeebullah outside his house © Pakistan Red Crescent

Naqeebullah works in agriculture, but a recent drought means there are fewer jobs available.

“We don’t have permanent jobs,” Naqeebullah said. “We do hard labour to earn our wages.”

When the Red Crescent gave Naqeebullah’s family a cash grant, he knew he had to spend it with his children’s future in mind.

“The money that we got from Red Crescent had to be spent wisely, so I bought a pair of sheep,” he said.

“From these sheep I get milk and yogurt. The pair has already produced two lambs, which I will sell for extra cash when they get bigger.”

Naqeebullah regrets that poverty stopped him from going to school himself.

The money he earns from the sheep and lambs, however, will help him keep his children in school.

“My children will learn a thing or two in school. They will have prospects in teaching, business or shop-keeping.”

2. Cash can save a boy’s life
Khair Muhammed stands holding agricultural tools over his shoulders in front of fields in Pakistan

Khair Muhammed © Pakistan Red Crescent

Khair Muhammad lives with his wife and four children in a mud house outside the small town of Ziarat.

As an agricultural worker, Khair’s income is not reliable. Some days he doesn’t earn anything at all.

When heavy snow caused the roof of his home to leak last winter, his ten-year-old son became ill with tuberculosis in the cold, damp house.

Khair spent much of his meagre income on treatment, including large fees for three hospital stays.

Eventually, he ran out of money and had to bring his son home before he had recovered.

Khair even had to sell his flock of sheep to repay some of the debt he owed for his son’s treatment and medicine.

“We ran out of medicines and I had no money to buy new medical supplies. My son’s health deteriorated,” Khair said.

So weak he could barely move, the boy had to lie under a net to keep flies off the bedsores that covered his body.

As part of our support to vulnerable families in Balochistan, we gave Khair and his wife 12,000 rupees (£87) each.

“I was able to buy six months’ worth of medicine for my child,” Khair said.

“I will spend everything I earn to educate him once he recovers his health.”

3. Cash can feed hungry children
In Pakistan, Mir Hassan and four of his children sit in the courtyard of their home about to start eating bread

Mir Hassan and some of his children © Pakistan Red Crescent

Mir Hassan proudly shows off the van parked under a tin shed in front of his mud house.

As a driver, Mir relies on the van to support his nine children.

“In the winter, the roads get blocked and I can’t drive. There is no work and I can’t earn a living,” he said.

“Many of our livestock perished because we couldn’t get them fodder.

“On top of that, the heavy snow damaged my house. The roof started to leak and I didn’t have any money for repairs.

“I didn’t have any option but to borrow the money to repair it.”

But Mir was concerned about whether he could afford to feed his family.

“The Red Crescent came with cash at the right time,” he said. “I bought bags of flour, sacks of potatoes and cooking oil.

“I don’t have to worry about my family going hungry for the time being, until I get back to earning my living through my driving.”

4. Cash can help lift a village out of poverty
In Pakistan, Syed Muhammad Hashim and four of his children stand in the courtyard outside their house

Syed Muhammad Hashim and his children at home © Pakistan Red Crescent

In the village of Said-lajawab, Syed Muhammad Hashim supports his family as a day labourer when he can get work.

Sometimes he is employed for 20 days a month. But sometimes he gets barely ten.

Syed’s grant from the Red Crescent helped in several ways.

“We have bought many important things we use daily and some medicines as well,” he said.

“I was able to pay back a 3,000-rupee (£22) loan that I had taken. Had I not been given this money, it would have been really hard to pay back my loans, and also buy food items and other things for my home.

“Though I would have been doing hard work and would have managed to survive this hardship somehow, it would have been a nightmare for me to get two meals a day.”

There are 700 homes in Syed’s village and most people are just as poor. Syed believes the cash grants will help keep the community’s children in school.

“I wish to educate my children and to get them good businesses,” he said. “If they get government jobs that will be really great, otherwise, I want them to run their own businesses“.

“I want them to help poor people just like we have been helped now. And I want them to work for their people and their village.”