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Invercargill Protected from Malaria

Invercargill Protected from Malaria

In its first year, startup charity Effective Altruism NZ has raised funds to purchase enough anti-malarial bednets to protect all the people in Invercargill.

At $3.60 per net, the $115,000 raised by this fledgling poverty-focussed charity is enough to purchase 32,000 LLINs (long-life insecticide treated bednets), which are proven effective in reducing the risk of malaria.

Thankfully Invercargill doesn’t have a problem with malaria, so the bednets are being distributed through Against Malaria Foundation in Uganda, as part of a larger distribution of 900,000 bednets in 22 districts to achieve universal coverage (all sleeping spaces covered) across a population of 1.8 million people. AMF estimate that the 32,000 bednets being purchased by Effective Altruism NZ will prevent 25-30,000 cases of malaria, and save 25 to 30 lives.

Effective Altruism NZ was started in 2016 by a small group of kiwis committed to poverty-focussed altruism, and effectiveness. They take evidence from international charity effectiveness analysis organisations, such as GiveWell, Giving What We Can and The Life You Can Save, and use this to determine the most effective poverty-focussed charities to work with. Currently they have partnership agreements with Against Malaria Foundation, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) & GiveDirectly.

It is common understanding that schooling is important to all people, including those in poorer countries. When Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) were conducted to determine the most cost effective way to improve schooling, a surprising result emerged. The great interventions such as improving teacher quality, providing books and other classroom resources were clearly beaten by an even better, and cheaper, intervention – deworming children while they are at school. It was found that if a child was dewormed each year while at school, at the cost of about $1 per year, they earned an average of 30% more each year for the rest of their life. As a result of these findings, Effective Altruism NZ is partnering with Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) – an effective charity working on large scale deworming projects in poorer countries.

Another highly effective partner charity is GiveDirectly, who operate in East Africa helping families living in extreme poverty by making unconditional cash transfers to them via mobile phone. Randomised Control Trials have also demonstrated that this is one of the most effective ways to help poorer families, and these families use the cash well, to improve their living situation. Interestingly, these studies found no evidence of the cash transfers being used for alcohol or tobacco, but rather the cash is used to help increase earning capacity (eg buying a bicycle to take goods to the market), improve nutrition, and improve health and housing conditions.

As part of the ‘effectiveness’ ethos of Effective Altruism NZ, ALL funds donated in NZ go directly to the partner charities overseas – so donees can be confident that 100% of their donations are being used effectively. To do this, the charity relies on volunteer workers, and has a small business partnering to pay the minimal administration costs.

The $115,000 raised this year be Effective Altruism came from a wide variety of people, and with donations ranging from $5 to many thousands. Effective Altruism NZ ( ) is quick to point out that participation in this effective poverty relief is possible for most New Zealanders. “New Zealanders like to be known for being generous, but sometimes struggle to know where to give money, or find it difficult to be motivated. Projects like the bednets are common sense, easy to grasp, and at $3.50 per net are very affordable”. One EANZCT participant, a single man in his early 30s, has committed to giving $3500 per year to effective poverty-focussed charities. When asked why, he said “It is estimated that through the most effective charities, it costs about $3500 to save a life – I figured that a good and achievable goal for me would be to save one life each year.” Another business couple involved with Effective Altruism have structured their business so that it is owned by a Charitable Trust – they receive a reasonable salary, and ALL profits are used for charitable purposes.

EANZCT suggests a plausible scenario – imagine someone who buys a coffee each day for their working life – say $4 per day for 40 years. That’s the equivalent of a bednet each day. If the coffee cost was instead used to purchase bednets through AMF, over 40 years that would be 11,000 bednets, preventing 1000 cases of malaria, and saving 10 lives. Not bad for the cost of a cup of coffee.

* This is based on 32,000 malaria nets protecting an estimated 57,600 people – the population of Invercargill is around 50,7000 people


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