Value for money in foreign aid

7 min readMar 27, 2021
Photo by bill wegener on Unsplash

The first thing we look at when buying is the Value: What’s the best thing money can buy. This question is relevant for international wellbeing. While some waste time debating the moral value of philanthropy we must keep in mind that setting priorities for global welfare is more important than the moral aspect of the methods. In his 2013 essay, Toby Ord discussed the importance of efficient spending as an instrument for implementing the best outcomes with the least resources. He showed the lost value of “Throwing cash on a problem” and hoping it will go away. With the classic example of aid for HIV/AIDS where from 5 investigated methods, the most effective one was 1000% more efficient than the least effective. Just because there was no clear path and priorities. I am talking about the principles of effective altruism where we create a continuous process of analyzing global aid and interventions, selecting the most effective ones. We must consider some aspects:

Analyzing the cost and value of an intervention

Analyzing the cost-effectiveness

Global welfare and efficient spending

Analyzing the cost and value of an intervention

Costs differ from region to region and country to country, a dollar here can’t buy much, however, the same dollar in Ethiopia could actually change something.

Imagine we have a budget of 100K $ and we want to fight blindness. That seems like a lot of money. Is it for one year? Is it for one place? What could we do with it?

  1. Buy bitcoin! It would save nobody and not improve global welfare, however, some of us would feel really good for a moment.
  2. Provide guide dogs to the blind, we would be able to train 2 dogs and their owner, then we would have 20K $ left. Too much to ignore and not enough to do more.
  3. Pay for surgeries of eye chlamydia (trachoma) in Africa. We would cure about 5000 patients with that money.

There are numerous other ways, places, and people we could help with this budget but we must first consider that the price of training 2 and half guide dogs is the same as operating and returning eyesight to 5000 people. You can radically improve much more lives and the lives of their family…


Imagine you have a maximum of 90 days to live. You could drop in one hour, in one day. Who would you call? Amor gignit amorem.