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Ethics Of Aid: Should Donated Health Dollars Go To 'Children First'?

Last week, it was your editors at Goats and Soda who were the curious goats.

We published a story on the huge gap in health care dollars for young and old in the developing world. A study looked at the $36.4 billion allocated by development agencies and nonprofit donors and found that a major share goes to children under 5.

The authors of the study didn't take a position on whether this is an appropriate allocation. But they've heard opinions from lots of people.

We wanted to know what our audience thinks. Is it right that children get most of the health aid in poor countries? Or should more money be spent on diseases of old age? Using our comment tool at the bottom of the story, they shared their perspective.

Over the past week, we received dozens of responses from our readers. Here's a sampling, edited for length and clarity.

Children first

"As a mother, I would use my last dollar to pay a dentist to pull my son's painful tooth even if it meant not being able to pay for my cancer medicine. If you have to choose between saving your mother or your daughter, with tears in your eyes and a torn heart, you choose your child. And your parent would forgive you." -Marie

Spend it on the workforce

"Rationally, the highest attention should be directed to adults 20 to 50 years old, who are the most productive members of society." -Elaine Eckerle

Don't forget the moms

"If you don't take care of the mother's health and keep her alive, you lose the most vital component of the family, the village, the community — and her children will suffer. Children without a mother may be subject to malnutrition, stunting, sexual abuse, child labor, child trafficking, etc." -Marlene LaPorte

More resources to older adults

"As aging populations grow, the incidence of chronic disease rises and so do health care costs. Unless more resources are devoted to taking care of older adults, countries will face massive financial and societal challenges in the years ahead." -Susan Peschin

'Spread some extra wonderful on us'

"I love children. I've worked in the health field for over 22 years and have seen first hand the good work on them, which is wonderful, But spread some extra wonderful on us. We're your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors." -D.A. Woods

Invest in the future

"Children are the true goal of development. Treating a geriatric woman with Alzheimer's or diabetes will do very little for the future trajectory of the country." -Kishore Joshi

Make it proportional to health needs

"I think it's fair that children get a large share of the pie. But that pie should be divided more evenly among other age groups. The funding pool should drop to its lowest [for adults] between 20 to 40 [years old], while increasing around age 50 to deal with chronic health issues for aging patients." -Liam Alden Smith

Thank you to everyone who participated in this month's #CuriousGoat.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Malaka Gharib is the deputy editor and digital strategist on NPR's global health and development team. She covers topics such as the refugee crisis, gender equality and women's health. Her work as part of NPR's reporting teams has been recognized with two Gracie Awards: in 2019 for How To Raise A Human, a series on global parenting, and in 2015 for #15Girls, a series that profiled teen girls around the world.
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