Cost-Effective Compassion: The 10 Most Popular Strategies for Helping the Poor
Ranking 10 Strategies
1. Get clean water to rural villages.
One million children die from drinking unclean water each year. Clean water can prevent legions of child health problems and dramatically reduce infant mortality.
Scientific evidence is overwhelmingly positive on impact. A World Health Organization study estimates that the availability of clean water in a rural village reduces infant mortality by 35 to 50 percent, at a cost of roughly $10 per person per year. Because infant mortality rates in the poorest countries often range from 60 to 110 per 1,000 live births, the cost of saving a child's life by providing clean water alone may lie in the range of only $180 to $400. To development economists, cheap-plus-effective is an endearing combination.
A growing number of development organizations working to provide clean water in rural villages now receive online donations. Funds are used to drill wells, lay plastic pipe, and install pumps.
Living Water International†
Flowing Streams Ministries†
2. Fund de-worming treatments for children.
Intestinal worm infestation affects one in four people worldwide and is responsible for chronic poor health, listlessness, and learning impairment among children in developing countries. Albendazole and other medications are stunningly effective and very inexpensive, making de-worming another great case of "bang for your buck" effectiveness.
A study by researchers at Berkeley and Harvard found that regular de-worming treatment in worm-infested areas of the developing world can reduce school absenteeism by 25 percent at a cost of only 50 cents per year per child. The only caveat: In most instances, de-worming drugs need to be administered repeatedly, especially to shoeless children, as worms typically enter through the soles of the feet.
3. Provide mosquito nets.
Malaria is a leading killer of children in developing countries, accounting for nearly one in five deaths of children under age 5 in sub-Saharan Africa. The claim is that every 45 seconds, a child dies from malaria. The good news is that, like health problems from dirty water and worm infestation, malaria can be prevented cheaply and effectively.
Bed nets cost only $5 to $10 each. Because of their cost-effectiveness, they have created quite a buzz in the nonprofit world in recent years. The scientific community strongly supports the intervention; insecticide-treated bed nets have a proven positive impact on malaria prevention. Modern nets last for years and are proven to reduce instances of malaria by 50 percent and malaria mortality by 20 percent.
4. Sponsor a child.
Of all the long-term development interventions, child sponsorship received the highest rating. Sponsors typically pay $25 to $40 per month, which covers a child's educational fees, school uniforms, tutoring, health care, and, in faith-based sponsorship organizations, spiritual mentorship. Many development economists today favor interventions like child sponsorship that remove practical constraints to education while building a child's self-esteem, aspirations, and goals. In this way, sponsorship relieves both external and internal poverty constraints.