Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Downside of Charity

In previous posts I supported Carlos Slim’s idea that: “charity never solved anything.”

I even had the temerity to challenge the basic concept of the Bill Gates and Warren Buffet charity challenge.

Aside from the negative tax consequences for the U.S. Treasury, throwing that much money into the charity world will almost certainly lead to political advocacy, especially for leftist causes.

I even expressed some suspicions about the Gates Foundations signature effort to try to find a cure for malaria, not so much because I am well versed in the topic, but because I wanted to open a dialogue where we can weigh the  good feeling that produces all of this charity against the real consequences experienced by its intended recipients.

Just because your heart is in the right place, and just because  you fervently desire to do good, that does not mean that your efforts are going to be positive, constructive, or beneficial.

As it happened, one or two commenters on the blog were kind enough to point out that I did not know very much about malaria.

The point was well taken.

But it is hardly the end of the story.

Today, I read an article in the Harvard Business Review by Ro and Bill Wyman. The Wymans have dedicated themselves to improving the health care system in Africa. Link here.

They explain that targeting a “niche” disease-- like malaria or AIDS-- as many charitable foundations do, is not necessarily the best way to bring better health care to Africa.

Ro and Bill Wyman write: “Despite the large doses of health aid that humanitarian organizations have poured into Africa, many Africans are still living with — and dying of — a lack of basic healthcare. Why? Primarily because most aid is niche aid.”

They add: “In the sub-Saharan region, pneumonia and diarrhea kill nearly two million children under five each year — pneumonia alone kills more than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined — yet less than 20% of children with pneumonia receive the antibiotics that could cure them. And most maternal deaths are preventable with access to reproductive health services, equipment, supplies, and skilled healthcare workers.”

And finally: “Instead of pouring millions of dollars into disease-centric programs, international aid organizations should be working with African stakeholders to build a community-level primary care delivery system, which can prevent and treat the deadly, everyday illnesses as well as administer complex disease protocols more reliably.”

For those who are interested in these questions, I recommend their article.

1 comment:

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It won't work in reality, that's exactly what I consider.