Cheapest, fastest path to development is deworming, immunizing, antibiotics, clean water, …

According to Hans Gosling in one of the most famous TED talks

I would like to compare Uganda with South Korea with Brazil. You can see that the speed of development is very, very different, and the countries are moving more or less at the same rate as money and health, but it seems you can move much faster if you are healthy first than if you are wealthy first.


Health cannot be bought at the supermarket. You have to invest in health. You have to get kids into schooling. You have to train health staff. You have to educate the population.

According to, regarding the scientific study “Parasite prevalence and the worldwide distribution of cognitive ability” by Christopher Eppig, Corey L. Fincher and Randy Thornhill,

Researchers in the US have noted areas of the world with the lowest average intelligence quotient (IQ) also tend to have the highest rates of infectious diseases, and suggest the energy required to fight off the diseases may hinder brain development in children because both are metabolically costly processes.


Eppig points out the study does not suggest “that parasites are the only thing affecting the global diversity of intelligence,” but that it may be even more important than factors such as wealth and access to education. He said disease saps the body’s energy and in the early years of childhood a lot of energy is going into building the brain. “If you don’t have enough, you can’t do it properly.” If the results are right, the IQ of a nation will not be raised unless the burden of disease can be lifted, Eppig said.

An obvious example are the helminth infections that, according to WHO and UNICEF, affect at least 2 billion people, because

Studies have shown clearly the detrimental effects of infection on educational performance and school attendance, as well as the significant improvements in language and memory development that can be realized following treatment. Helminth infections are also associated with nutritional deficiencies, particularly of iron and vitamin A, with improvements in iron status and increases in vitamin A absorption after deworming.

It would be so cheap to stop wasting this human potential! The above study says

Deworming improves health, nutrition and physical development, makes pregnancy safer and improves birth outcomes. It is inexpensive, with a school-based deworming programme typically costing between US$ 0.25 and 0.50 per child per year.

By the way, did you know that pneumonia is the #1 killer of children worldwide, killing about 1.4 million children under age 5 each year? According to WHO fact sheet 331

Pneumonia can be prevented by immunization, adequate nutrition and by addressing environmental factors. Pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics, but around 30% of children with pneumonia receive the antibiotics they need.


The cost of antibiotic treatment for all children with pneumonia in 42 of the world’s poorest countries is estimated at around US$ 600 million per year. Treating pneumonia in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa – which account for 85% of deaths – would cost a third of this total, at around US$ 200 million. The price includes the antibiotics themselves, as well as the cost of training health workers, which strengthens the health systems as a whole.

According to Gourdas Choudhuri

The role of vaccines in preventing the disease cannot be overlooked. However, a vaccine may work well against some of these but not all. So it is difficult to have a complete vaccine for full protection.Some vaccines, like the Hib vaccine, are good and a must, which can be given routinely. The pneumococcal vaccine is another good vaccine. But the issue is whether the strains causing the disease, which are present in the community, are the same as those present in the vaccine, otherwise the vaccine will not work, and the money spent will not get the protection one is expecting. Pneumococcus, one of the germs that cause pneumonia in children, has many strains. The vaccine, which is currently available, has strains that are found chiefly in the western world, and its profile does not match with the strains found in our country. So a routine immunization with one vaccine may not work.

Humans spend US$ 2 trillion per year on the military. It would take a tiny sliver of that to crush helminths, pneumonia, and the rest. Humanity chooses to let its children be stunted and killed.

A question I’d love an answer to: If I wanted to tithe some portion of my income to defeating the parasites, viruses, and bacteria of children, which avenue of donation would save the most lives per dollar, and which would save the most cognitive potential?


Tell me (anonymous OK)

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