It is great to see the world respond to the Tsunami catastrophe. Tons of money donated from countries, corporations and individuals. Volunteers coming from NPOs, Army and individuals that want to help. But I think we have gotten to the point of diminishing returns on helping people by giving additional time and money to this effort. If you are looking for a way to help consider Africa.
Listening to Jan Egeland, the under secretary general for humanitarian affairs in the UN on Charlie Rose, he says a Tsunami like tragedy happens every 4 months in the Congo. This is due to preventable disease and war. There are equally miserable conditions in the Congo, Sudan, Central African Republic and Gineau. These are the forgotten and neglected cases. Eastern Congo is the worst disaster area of the last 10 years where million have probably perished. Helping with basic health care or primary school education would have a great impact.
Nicholas D. Kristof writes about this in his NYT column: Land of Penny Pinchers:
The 150,000 or so fatalities from the tsunami are well within the margin of error for estimates of the number of deaths every year from malaria. Probably two million people die annually of malaria, most of them children and most in Africa, or maybe it's three million - we don't even know.
Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University economist, estimates that spending $2 billion to $3 billion on malaria might save more than one million lives a year. "This is probably the best bargain on the planet," he said.
Why not start an organization to put political pressure on the US to help fund this? The great thing about it from a US political standpoint is that health care and primary school education in Africa and other poor countries is neither a blue or red state issue. You could get participation from the left and right for this.
Or how about investigating whether DDT should be used to help eradicate mosquitoes and malaria? It is more or less banned right now, but should it be? Michael Chrichton in his new book State of Fear states that 30-50 million people have died because of this ban. Do some research (one opinion here at junkscience.com) and if you think the benefits outweigh the costs take action.
If the Tsunami devastation has called you to action great. Now figure out the best way to make your efforts help.
Update: I take a look at the NYTimes this morning and see this column by Nicolas Kristof: It's Time to Spray DDT. Like he totally didn't read my blog and say "Damn, that's a good idea, why didn't I think of that." :) Well glad to see that the DDT idea really did make sense. Of course Kristof explains much more elegantly why DDT is a good idea so you might want to read his article.