16 September 2011

On Donating to Somalia

Update: Give Well offers a point of clarification in the comments section:

We haven't made any claim along the lines of "giving to Somalia doesn't accomplish good." Based on what we've been able to learn, we believe that donors who want to accomplish as much good as possible are better served giving to outstanding charities working on "everyday international aid" rather than directing funds to Somalia, specifically.

For donors who are committed to giving to Somalia, we recommend three organizations above others: MSF, WFP, and the ICRC.
I see no disagreement because they are essentially saying not to earmark donations to organizations who are working in the Horn of Africa and specifically in Somalia. That is good advice as far as I am concerned.

Give Well has suggested against donations to Somalia.  That is frankly silly. It is good that they have pointed out that it is hard to track the effectiveness of donations.  Donors should hear that frequently. Maybe it is a step closer to the end end of simplified cause marketing that says "your $20 will do something very specific that we want you to believe is easily measurable, but is really impossible however we are doing this because it is to our advantage to make aid seem easy."

The unintended consequences of giving aid to famine victims in Somalia includes funding Al Shabab and the unchecked regional governing bodies. Some of the aid money will also make it to the people who need it and it will do some real good. The more effective donation will go towards supporting refugees if you think about bang for your buck.  Doing so will keep money out of groups who are not supporting the goal of alleviating hunger, but the consequence of not supporting Somalis still at home is dire.

The question is how to maximize the impact of donations that will directed away from their intended goal to a significant extent.  Part of this can probably be done by addressing food security in order to prevent it from happening again.  Though that does not help people who need food right now.

Anyone want to take a stab or share their experiences from being on the ground?