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Still time to help East Africa

November 22nd, 2011

We’ve raised over $4000 for the East Africa appeal, more than $8000 after the Australian government’s matching contribution. That’s enough to make a real difference to the lives of hundreds of people living in the most desperate conditions. But there’s still time to reach the appeal target of $5000. I started things off with a contribution and now I’ve done the half marathon as promised, finishing in a time of 1:57:16, more than three minutes below my previous best time. Surely that’s worth the effort of clicking the link and putting in whatever you can afford for this truly worthy cause.

I haven’t used any gimmicks for this appeal so far, but if we reach $5000 I’ll buy and post the after-race photo, which should provide much innocent amusement for readers, what with my special race gear and generally depleted condition.

Update The $5000 target has been reached! Thanks so much to my readers who have, as usual, given generously to help others.

I’m not going to close off the appeal for another couple of days. If you haven’t given already, put in whatever you can afford.

I haven’t heard from the race photographers yet, but presumably they will be in touch, so that I can post the evidence.

Finally, I have just learned that two runners died during the event, the first time this has happened in the 13 years it has been run. My condolences go to their families. Remember, if you are thinking of taking up any strenuous sport ,to build up slowly, have regular medical checks and stay within your limits on race day.End update

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  1. Sam
    November 21st, 2011 at 11:14 | #1

    Done. There was a discussion on the Givewell website about the East African famine, including a bit of skepticism about the aid effectiveness of this intervention. The reasoning went like this.

    The “famine” part of this story is really confined to Somalia, not the rest of East Africa. The other countries have good existing food distribution systems that don’t need much more money. There are advantages to investing in Somalia; for one thing, without a functioning central government that does anything positive there is very little aid fungibility. Also, a lot of moral-hazard type problems go away when the money is for emergency food relief.

    On the other hand, with armed militants like Al Shabab infesting the area, killing aid workers and stealing supplies, Somalia is a difficult place to help. According to Givewell, the upshot of all this is that the cost per life saved is probably much more than $1000. Since there are many other projects that cost less for the same outlay, the east african famine is not the best investment to make.

    Givewell is also critical of spending money on sub-optimal projects just because a government somewhere will add to your contribution (as in this case). They argue that all ODA is really fungible, and the probable effect of a matched donation is a reduction in some other – possibly better – intervention.

    I don’t really know much about this though. JQ, where do you stand? Closer to Sachs than to Easterley, I assume?

  2. John Quiggin
    November 21st, 2011 at 22:56 | #2

    Much more towards Sachs – http://johnquiggin.com/2005/08/15/the-end-of-poverty/

    As regards the point about militants etc, the Givewell discussion doesn’t seem to acknowledge that almost all famines are associated with some kind of war – otherwise regular relief mechanisms generally work OK. If you are going to oppose famine relief on this basis, you have to oppose famine relief outright.

    As regards the government matching, I wasn’t aware of it when I picked this cause. I suspect the degree of fungibility is somewhat below 1.

  3. Sam
    November 22nd, 2011 at 10:22 | #3

    “If you are going to oppose famine relief on this basis, you have to oppose famine relief outright.”

    I don’t think that follows. Combatants in different conflicts have varying tendencies to attack neutral aid workers. In some wars, it might be fairly safe to work in-country. Al Shabab has shown that it is towards the more vicious end of the spectrum.

  4. Donald Oats
    November 22nd, 2011 at 13:40 | #4

    You should be above $5000 now – seems to be slow at updating the money counter.

    OT: Radiation has covered approx 8% of land in Japan. This has caused a stop to rice exports. To moralise a little: humans have to get it into their heads that there is nowhere to hide when big things go wrong, so it is up to us to soberly assess risk *before* disasters occur, not afterwards.

  5. John Quiggin
    November 22nd, 2011 at 22:20 | #5

    Over $5000! Well done

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