While we have a natural desire to support our local communities, there is a large imbalance between domestic giving and international giving. Ninety-five percent of the $240 billion that individuals in the United States give to charities annually goes to domestic non-profits while only 5% is donated internationally.
Americans donate twice as much as individuals in other rich nations, but only a fraction goes to help people where there is the greatest need and where a dollar goes the furthest. Simple interventions can actually save lives and reduce unnecessary suffering with donations to effective charities working in the developing world.
Spending money on ourselves and our family members now, or saving for future educational needs and retirement, does not have to prevent you from donating to highly effective charities. There are two ways to help without hurting your family now or in the future. First, you can shift a portion of what you currently give to charities that have proven dramatic impact. Secondly, slightly increase the overall amount you donate to charity and give this increase to these very effective charities.
Actually, small donations can make a huge difference. For example, an anti-malaria bed net costs only $2.50 and protects two people for up to three years. The costs of meeting basic human needs in the developing world are most often far less than the costs for those same services and supplies in the developed world.
The World Bank sets the standard for extreme poverty at $1.90 a day (October, 2015). Currently, 702 million people, or 9.6 percent of the global population, fall into this category, struggling to survive on that amount or frequently less. That is, what the equivalent of what $1.90 USD would buy in local currency.
While sustainable development is critical to the elimination of extreme poverty, individual giving plays a crucial role in combating extreme poverty. For example, malaria is the single biggest drag on the African economy (source : AMF). Funding anti-malaria bed nets has played a significant role in reducing the incidence of malaria and childhood mortality. Further, helping to fund medications to fight diseases can mean a child is able to stay in school, or that a parent is able to continue to work to support their family. Donating can help provide the resources that are essential for a better standard of living.
Extreme poverty is a result of many factors -- historical, as well as current economic, political and social causes. But the fact is that helping people now not only reduces unnecessary suffering and saves lives, but helps create the conditions that favor eliminating both extreme poverty and many of the factors that maintain it.
Better health enables people living in poverty to contribute much more strongly to their own success – they can work, they can go to school, they can contribute to their household income, and they don't take someone else's time and capacity to work by requiring care. A disabled person in the family, such as a grandparent with preventable blindness, might cause a child to miss out on an education in order to care for his or her family member.
The Life You Can Save is a movement of people fighting extreme poverty. We hold that an ethical life involves using some of our wealth and resources to save and improve the lives of those less fortunate than us.
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