High-impact Giving in Southeast Asia

We often come across donors looking for effective charities. That means stretching our impact with every charitable dollar we give.

For such donors who are looking at Southeast Asian charities, we think that the most promising ones are those with programmes that target: 

  1. child malnutrition and
  2. water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

We narrowed down these areas based on the following processes:

 

1. Cause prioritisation

We looked into a few global health and development areas and found that the disease burden caused by stunting is huge – 25.8% of children under the age of five in Southeast Asia are stunted.1

Stunting affects the physical and cognitive development of a child. We know that if these are tackled early, there will be a higher chance that the child can stay healthier, be engaged in learning (education) and be more likely be a productive member of society as an adult.2

 
Brain images of white matter fibre tracks — compared between stunted growth (left) and normal growth (right) of three-month old Bangladeshi children.    Picture © Nadine Gaab and A. Charles Nelson.   Source: Dr. Charles A. Nelson, Harvard Medical School, and others (2017).

Brain images of white matter fibre tracks — compared between stunted growth (left) and normal growth (right) of three-month old Bangladeshi children. 

Picture © Nadine Gaab and A. Charles Nelson. 

Source: Dr. Charles A. Nelson, Harvard Medical School, and others (2017).

 

Stunting is caused mainly by malnutrition in children, especially in the first 1,000 days of life.

It will be most effective to target improving clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), which are factors that lead to high diarrhea rate that accounts for 5-9% of deaths for children under five in Southeast Asia (2015 estimates). 3

 
Image extracted from UNICEF report  —   One is Too Many: Ending Child Deaths from Pneumonia and Diarrhoea . Page 9. 

Image extracted from UNICEF report One is Too Many: Ending Child Deaths from Pneumonia and Diarrhoea. Page 9. 

 

2. Cost-effectiveness

For us, an element of 'best giving opportunities' is cost-effectiveness — meaning that we can achieve a large benefit in improving others' welfare with a given amount of money.

By focusing on cost-effective intervention areas, we are looking at what to prioritise in order to save or help to improve as many lives as possible, for as little money as possible. 4

While there are many global health and development interventions that are cost-effective, we decided to start with just two areas — malnutrition and WASH.

There are well-established studies on how deaths from child & maternal malnutrition and poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is completely preventable. Cheap interventions can significantly improve the health of people.5 Child deaths from poverty-related causes should be entirely preventable.

 

3. The NGO sector

So, we know about which are the very high-impact, cost-effective areas to give to in Southeast Asia.

How can a donor contribute in these areas of global health and development?

We think that small individual donors, philanthropists and even corporates (CSR programmes) can all benefit from knowing which organisations deliver these high-impact global health and development programmes on the ground.

This is one way to directly make a difference to others, who have much greater unmet needs and are living farther away from where we are, effectively.

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DONOR

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Non-Governmental Organisations
(NGO)

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BENEFICIARIES

 

There are many actions that when implemented by governments, the impact will be much more far-reaching. For example, if clean piped water is accessable for all in a country, the rate of diarrhoeal deaths would be significantly lowered. 6

However, for donors, the area of influence is likely in where we decide to give to.

Amount of donors' giving influenced by GiveWell's recommendations of top highly effective charities.     Image source:   GiveWell

Amount of donors' giving influenced by GiveWell's recommendations of top highly effective charities. 

Image source: GiveWell

Having come so far in understanding the pertinent issues, we are now looking for charities that are effective in carrying out these programmes in Southeast Asia.

Reach out to us if you are an interested NGO working in our prioritised areas. We hope to learn amore about organisations' work on the ground and to be able to recommend effective charities.


References:

1. UNICEF, World Health Organization & World Bank Group. 2017. "Levels and Trends in Child Malnutrition: Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates — Key Findings of the 2017 Edition." Accessed 4 Jun 2018. http://www.who.int/nutgrowthdb/jme_brochoure2017.pdf?ua=1

2. Copenhagen Consensus Center. 2014. "Post-2015 Consensus: Nutrition." Accessed 4 Jun 2018. http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/post-2015-consensus/nutrition

3. UNICEF. Nov 2016. "One is Too Many: Ending Child Deaths from Pneumonia and Diarrhoea." Accessed 15 Jun 2018. https://data.unicef.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/UNICEF-Pneumonia-Diarrhoea-report2016-web-version_final.pdf

4. GiveWell. Nov 2017. "Cost-Effectiveness." Accessed 18 Dec 2017. https://www.givewell.org/how-we-work/our-criteria/cost-effectiveness

5. World Health Organization. 31 Oct 2017. "Children: reducing mortality - World Health Organization." Accessed 17 May 2018. http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/children-reducing-mortality

6. Norberg, Johan. 2017. Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future. London: Oneworld Publications.