How to Help the Third World
May 15, 2012, 03:30 PM
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Bjorn Lomborg reiterates:

The expert panel’s findings reveal that, if spent smartly, $75 billion—just a 15 percent increase in current aid spending—could go a long way to solving many of the world’s challenges. 

Given the budget restraints, they found 16 investments worthy of investment (in descending order of desirability): 

1. Bundled interventions to reduce undernutrition in preschoolers (to fight hunger and improve education)


This includes iodine and iron fortification of staples to reduce cretinism and other IQ-sapping conditions. Lomborg and his panel of experts has been endorsing this since shortly after I took up the cause. The problem with advocating IQ-boosting environmental interventions in the Third World (such as Kiwanis International has been nobly doing for decades), of course, is that just mentioning the topic of IQ deficits in the Third World is a big no-no.

2. Expanding the subsidy for malaria combination treatment

3. Expanded childhood immunization coverage

4. Deworming of schoolchildren, to improve educational and health outcomes


The Rockefeller Foundation's war on hookworm in the American South in the first half of the 20th Century did a lot of good. Parasites sap energy, physical and mental.

5. Expanding tuberculosis treatment

6. R&D to increase yield enhancements, to decrease hunger, fight biodiversity destruction, and lessen the effects of climate change

7. Investing in effective early warning systems to protect populations against natural disaster

8. Strengthening surgical capacity

9. Hepatitis B immunization

10. Using low-cost drugs in the case of acute heart attacks in poorer nations (these are already available in developed countries)

11. Salt reduction campaign to reduce chronic disease

12. Geoengineering R&D into the feasibility of solar radiation management

13. Conditional Cash Transfers for School Attendance

14. Accelerated HIV Vaccine R&D

15. Extended field trial of information campaigns on the benefits of schooling

16. Borehole and public hand-pump intervention

 

So, a pretty good list, but can you think of the obvious missing element?

Right, free contraception for the poor, especially long term contraception.

Last month, the New York Times published a rare article for the 21st Century, Nigeria Tested by Rapid Rise in Population, pointing out that population growth in black Africa is a big problem (especially, of course, for black Africans). Elisabeth Rosenthal wrote:

LAGOS, Nigeria — In a quarter-century, at the rate Nigeria is growing, 300 million people — a population about as big as that of the present-day United States — will live in a country roughly the size of Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. In this commercial hub, where the area’s population has by some estimates nearly doubled over 15 years to 21 million, living standards for many are falling. 

Lifelong residents like Peju Taofika and her three granddaughters inhabit a room in a typical apartment block known as a “Face Me, Face You” because whole families squeeze into 7-by-11-foot rooms along a narrow corridor. Up to 50 people share a kitchen, toilet and sink — though the pipes in the neighborhood often no longer carry water. 

At Alapere Primary School, more than 100 students cram into most classrooms, two to a desk. 

As graduates pour out of high schools and universities, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is nearly 50 percent for people in urban areas ages 15 to 24 — driving crime and discontent. 

The growing upper-middle class also feels the squeeze, as commutes from even nearby suburbs can run two to three hours. 

Last October, the United Nations announced the global population had breached seven billion and would expand rapidly for decades, taxing natural resources if countries cannot better manage the growth. 

Nearly all of the increase is in sub-Saharan Africa, where the population rise far outstrips economic expansion. Of the roughly 20 countries where women average more than five children, almost all are in the region.

This is the kind of article that writes itself once you get up the courage to do it.