My buddy Elie, a member of the GiveWell project and a passionate diarrhea guy, is trying to get you excited about the idea of saving lives for about $1000 a pop (see below). Hey, it is a good deal, and I agree with his take that repairing someone’s fistula is pretty comparable to saving her life. Why settle for pretty comparable, though? How much would you have to pay to literally stop a child from dying?
Turns out, the answer is less. Way less. For your real charity bargain shopping, go on down to Africa, especially the regions afflicted by malaria. According to this study, “About six lives can be saved each year for every 1000 children protected with insecticide-treated nets.” Insecticide-treated nets can be had through Nothing But Nets for a whopping $10 each (transportation and distribution included), and they last 3-5 years and generally cover 2 people each … which means buying 500 nets (for $5000) can cover 1000 children and save let’s say 24 lives over 4 years … which comes out to ~$200 per life saved.
Hang on. This is crazy. Let me say that again.
$200 to save a freaking life.
But that’s not all. The weirdest thing about Elie’s high-priced offer is that he’s forgetting about his own favorite cause, fatal diarrhea. This is one we don’t understand as well, largely because the organizations we’ve seen in this area don’t seem as careful about tracking their results. So I can’t give you an exact dollar figure … but I can tell you that an ORT, a tiny packet of nutrients that a child can swallow and ensure that he survives his bout of diarrhea, costs … wait for it …
There’s a word for this, friends. It’s called a bargain. We’re all familiar with the idea as it applies to junk: if someone cuts prices enough, you’re usually in, even if we’re talking about a DVD of Deuce Bigalow, European Gigolo. (Admit it, you smiled just now. No, I’m not proud.)
Well, it just so happens that this is your lucky day! Cause thanks to a combination of global disparities in wealth, ineffectively distributed charity, and horrible disease epidemics, SAVING LIVES HAS NEVER BEEN CHEAPER! WE’RE PRACTICALLY GIVING THESE THINGS AWAY!! ACT NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!
(And hopefully, this sale won’t last much longer.)