December 2017: The expert road to effectiveness

A blog reader recently asked me how we decide which charities are the most effective ones to give our money to each month. The short answer – we turn to the experts. There are a couple of organisations dedicated to specifically identifying the ‘top’ charities from the perspective of an effective altruist.

When looking for ideas we generally head first to The Life You Can SaveHere an expert panel uses three criteria, pithily encompassed as the ‘three Es’ – evidence, efficiency, execution – to identify recommended charities.

Because effective altruism is ruled by the head not the heart, where possible we also like to donate to charities that we can claim as a tax deduction. More money can then be donated later in the year when it’s tax return time. The Life You Can Save has a search function where you can explore recommended charities based on their tax-deductible status in the country you’re donating from.

From here, you can also calculate the impact your particular donation will have. Which we love to do.

In December we’d decided to donate to the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, which facilitates school-based distributions of deworming tablets, primarily in countries such as Ethopia, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Madagascar, Mozambique and the Sudan. In 2017, SCI aimed to deworm close to 50 million children and at-risk adults.

Schistosomiasis is carried by freshwater snails and is transmitted through contact with contaminated water during everyday activities, such as bathing and washing clothes, where access to clean water is limited. STH is caused by a group of intestinal parasites, and are transmitted by eggs present in human faeces, which contaminate the soil in areas where sanitation is poor. Adult worms live in the intestines and feed on host tissues.

It’s a serious issue. The World Health Organization estimates that 206 million people have schistosomiasis and 1.5 billion have STH. These infections can result in anemia, stunted growth, reduced school attendance, impaired cognitive development, reduced worker productivity and internal organ damage.

SCI works with national governments to create and scale mass school-based deworming programs, which have a strong track record of success. These programs provide school children with pills that protect against the most prevalent neglected tropical diseases. The programs are highly cost-effective, generally at around 73 cents per child per year.

Using the ‘impact calculator’ on The Life You Can Save website we were able to calculate that 858 children would receive treatment as a result of our donation.

So a serious issue, with an effective solution. Thanks to the experts.