Mert Bulan

Effective way of saving lives in Africa

| reading time: 3 min(s)

During my Christmas holiday, I had a chance to read a book called Factfullness. It became a really popular book after Bill Gates’s recommendation. The author of the book explains why we are wrong about the world, especially some numbers like life expectancy, child mortality rate in Africa and how we are improving the conditions in our life comparing to 20-30 years ago.

The thing that I liked a lot about the book was the categorizations of the countries. For a very long time, we have been categorizing countries like developed, developing, undeveloped, etc. He mentions that categorizing countries like this doesn’t make sense at all. So he comes up with a new idea of the categorization of countries. Simply, he groups countries based on the income level of individuals. There are 4 levels. In the first level, there are countries which have a population who earns less than 2$ per day, in the second level this number is less 8$, in the third level less than 32$ and the last level is for 32$ and more. When you think about this categorization, it makes sense because all the statistics about your country’s development (life expectancy, child mortality rate, etc.) depend on the income of citizens. If you earn more, you can have better standards and live longer.

A graph that show how many people in the each level

When you look at those groups, you can’t imagine how you can live with less than 2$ per day so the author explains how people live at each level:

Level 1:

One billion people live on level 1. This is what we think of as extreme poverty. If you’re on level 1, you survive on less than $2 a day and get around by walking barefoot. Your food is cooked over an open fire, and you spend most of your day traveling to fetch water. At night, you and your children sleep on a dirt floor.

Level 2:

Three billion people live on level 2, between $2 and $8 a day. Level 2 means that you can buy shoes and maybe a bike, so it doesn’t take so long to get water. Your kids go to school instead of working all day. Dinner is made over a gas stove, and your family sleeps on mattresses instead of the floor.

Level 3:

Two billion people live on level 3, between $8 and $32 a day. You have running water and a fridge in your home. You can also afford a motorbike to make getting around easier. Some of your kids start (and even finish) high school.

Level 4:

One billion people live on level 4. If you spend more than $32 a day, you’re on level 4. You have at least a high school education and can probably afford to buy a car and take a vacation once in a while.

After reading those definitions, I had stopped reading the book and thought about it. As a person who lives in Level 4 country, I have everything that I need, I can buy whatever I want, I can go wherever I want. On the other hand, there are still 1 billion people on this planet who walk barefoot and cook their food over an open fire. After thinking about this, I said to myself that I have to do something.

I made a quick research about how I can help those people. Of course, the easiest way is to make donations but I don’t want to donate my money to a random charity. After some time, I found on Hacker News that a lot of people are making donations via givewell.org. I had visited the website and liked what they are doing. Instead of randomly helping poor people, they are making deep research and finding the most effective way of helping people. Then, they are listing the charities based on their effectiveness on their website and putting a lot of information about those charities like how they are going to spend the money, how much money they need, in which countries they are going to help people etc.

After reading some details about a few charities, I picked Malaria Consortium. By donating money to this charity, you are helping to protect children under 5 from malaria in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Chad. With just 4.25$ you can save one child’s life. You can read the details at givewell.org or thelifeyoucansave.org. I found the latter website better since they have a better design, it is easier to navigate and understand the details. They are also getting the most effective charities from givewell.org.

So after getting more information, I set up a monthly standing order for a donation. One of the good parts of those charities, you can deduct the money that you donate from your tax return. If you don’t know how much you should donate, the rule of thumb is 1% of your yearly salary. Of course, you don’t have to pick the charity that I picked, there are many charities, please read all the details about them and decide yourself. Don’t forget it, you don’t have to be Bill Gates to help poor people in Africa.

Note: If you live in Germany, Switzerland, or the Netherlands, you can use Effective Altruism website for your donations.

© 2020 by Mert Bulan.