If you’re anything like me, when reading the paper or the news online you may be drawn to sensationalist headlines concerned with aid expenditure, international aid being delivered at the expense of local needs and the plight of the taxpayer. These headlines can provoke public outrage at the perceived cost of foreign aid to the taxpayer, often resulting in the formation of a generally negative (though often ill-informed) consensus about the value and repute of aid and international development initiatives.
Giving What We Can gives its support to the Against Malaria Foundation, and the intervention of combating malaria more broadly, as one of the most effective ways to fight poverty today. Malaria is estimated to cost Africa $12 billion a year through healthcare and loss of work and education. It accounts for almost one million deaths a year, being a significant contributor child mortality.
Whenever a disaster happens, whether it’s an earthquake, a tsunami, or some new human conflict, we all feel that urge to reach into our pockets and give a little to help. We know that, in an emergency, there is a huge amount of suffering, whether that is through deaths, injuries or loss of property and livelihoods. And we think that, when someone has nothing, every little will help. And so we donate, knowing that when the worst comes, victims of a disaster will need all the help they can get. But is emergency aid really that effective? Should we instead hold ourselves back, and give to one of the recommended charities instead?
Parasitic worm infections are endemic in large parts of the world. Eradication of these worms (deworming) has long been considered a simple and cheap intervention that brings substantial health and education benefits to millions of children worldwide. Many organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and Deworm The World support deworming programs. However in recent years, more data have emerged that cast doubts on the effectiveness of such programmes.
Foreword: We think our top charities do fantastic work, but we are always interested in other methods for helping the world’s poor. The Copenhagen Consensus and other authors have highlighted the potential of agricultural R&D as a high-leverage opportunity. This was enough to get us interested in understanding the area better, so we asked David Goll, a Giving What We Can member and a professional economist, to investigate how it compares to our existing recommendations.
Owen Cotton-Barratt, Director of Research for Giving What We Can
Microfinance is the provision of financial services to those in poverty. This has generally taken three forms. First, there is microcredit – the provision of loans - which is the dominant and best-known form of microfinance. There is also microsavings, the provision of savings accounts, and microinsurance, the provision of insurance.
This July saw the first academic conference on effective altruism. The three-day event took place at All Souls College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford. The conference featured a diverse range of speakers addressing issues related to effective altruism in a shared setting. It was a fantastic opportunity to share insights and ideas from some of the best minds working on these issues.
‘1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty.’
I think what happens to a lot of us when presented with a statistic like this is the following: we have a fleeting thought about how awful it is, and we then carry on with our lives: worrying about an exam, choosing between cereals at the supermarket, scrolling through our Facebook newsfeeds.
Although my friend has not yet found the love of his life, he once sought counsel from a female friend on his idea for a future marriage proposal: “Would you find it romantic if we met at an empty field in a poor African village, I got down on one knee and said, ‘With the money I could have used to buy you a beautiful diamond ring, instead I funded the construction of a new school in this empty field’?”
As someone fortunate enough to have never wanted for anything all my life, I've always struggled with the degree of absolute poverty of so many people in the developing world. The world bank's poverty line is just $1.25 a day (adjusted for purchasing power that too), but there are still an estimated 600 million people below this line.
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