World aid is finally working

Ten thousand fewer children die every day than they did in 1990.Take that in. Let it marinate. It’s great news — and it’s true. According to UNICEF, 8.8 million children under five died last year. Sounds bad — and it is. But compare that to 12.5 million deaths in 1990. It’s around a 25 percent drop. It’s also the first time since records have been kept that the number of child deaths in the world fell below nine million.Also in the “really, really good news” file is the interesting fact that the most precipitous drops in child mortality occurred in countries traditionally with the highest rates.If you were born in Malawi in 1970, you would have about a 30 percent chance of dying before your fifth birthday — 336 kids out of 1000 did.  That’s more than one-in-three. In 1990 it was down to 225. Better, but still atrocious.In 2008 the number plummeted to 100 kids out of a thousand.There’s something to be learned out of this. Have you ever heard those critics that incessantly cling to the notion that international aid is ineffective?  (If not, just type “foreign aid doesn’t work” into Google. You’ll see what I mean.) Dambisa Moyo, an economist and author, wrote an entire book dedicated to denouncing government aid to Africa.She argues that it is well-known that aid “doesn’t work, hasn’t worked and won’t work.”Well now you have something to say to Moyo and the other critics. You can even suggest to them that they communicate their belief straight to the source. They can get on a plane, fly to a developing country, find a mother whose children just got a measles vaccine or antibiotics and report to her that international aid is a useless misallocation of resources.Certainly the aid situation can be confusing and counterintuitive.  There’s private aid, government aid and even mixes of the two.  There’s aid to foreign governments and on-the-ground projects. And, yes, some of it gets lost in corruption.But in the end, what does in translate to? Ten thousand kids alive today who wouldn’t be.Is it worth it? I think so.Understanding the gains that have been made in the developing countries also enables us to grasp the contributions made by those who worked to make it possible.Donors, charities, international aid workers, even FeelGood — these people deserve exponentially more credit than they receive.While the war against poverty and hunger is far from over, acknowledging that it’s winnable and that gains have been made is an important step.It can galvanize future action and honor those who’ve been fighting it.