Eradicating Guinea Worm: What do our data have to say?
And it'll also make you grateful for the hard work of individuals who've been fighting to eradicate the disease because it appears they are meeting with great success. To quote Kristof's article, “For the last 24 years, former President Jimmy Carter has led the global struggle against the disease. When he started, there were 3.5 million cases annually in 20 countries. Last year, there were fewer than 3,200 cases in four countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, and Sudan.”
Such numbers are truly something to celebrate. And we wouldn't be researchers if such an article didn't also bring a lot of questions to mind:
- “Was foreign aid a positive contributor to that outcome or do other variables claim the majority of the credit?”
- “Were official donors even contributing to this successful eradication campaign or was it entirely addressed by the private sector?”
- “What other parasitic diseases are aid donors currently focusing on?”
Let's say you wanted to ask the question:
Would you be shocked if I told you the answer to this question was that the second biggest contributor was Kuwait? And that the data also reveals that the Carter Foundation received some of their funding from the OPEC Fund for International Development (the third largest donor in this chart)?
Are you suddenly inclined to feel more charitable towards oil exporters because though you curse under your breath as you fill your gas tank each week you can now view them as an organization that is helping to eradicate an awful disease? Or are suddenly skeptical of these numbers because it seems hard to believe that rich developing nations like the US and Japan are giving less than Kuwait and OPEC?
Well lets review how I arrived at these numbers, we're all about transparency here at AidData. If you keyword search the data for the terms "Guinea worm" and "Dracunculosis" you'd find the following breakdown by donor:
[Note: AidData.org is still in beta and we are aware our keyword search function on the website is lacking. We are working on improving it. In the meantime we recommend you perform your keyword searches in an external SQL client. You can download the full dataset to do such keyword searches by using the current research release.]
Do you still find this chart surprising? To be honest, though this certainly highlights some (perhaps many) of the dollars allocated to combat guinea worm, it is certainly not an accurate representation of all financing for the campaign.
This is a great opportunity to highlight several weak points in the data that currently make it difficult to narrow down this type of information accurately.
Reasons why certain flows may not be included here:
- Donors have reported limited information. Depending on the donor we may be lacking either breadth of coverage (# of years, types of flows reported) or depth of coverage (# of fields populated, quality of descriptive information). If a donor has given money to help combat guinea worm but the information they report only tells us they gave funding for "infectious disease" we cannot isolate these dollars from other dollars committed to fund infectious disease. The United States may have contributed much more funding to guinea worm eradication than we can isolate here--but we don't KNOW because the descriptive quality of their data does not allow us to isolate these funds.
- The source of the financing is a private foundation. Currently AidData does not have information from private foundations public on the website, though we are currently working to obtain some of this data. The data available right now in our database consists of information from official bilateral donors and multilateral organizations--some of them funnel their donations through private foundations like the Carter foundation, this OPEC grant. [Certainly we know we are missing some private foundation financing--you can find, for example, that the Gates Foundation has given 2 grants to the Carter Foundation for this purpose (see them here and here). If we include the Gates dollars they would surpass even the United Kingdom on this graph.]
- Language barriers. Some data is not in English making it tricky to isolate information based on key words.
If you are aware of an improved data source we have yet to include, if you find errors in our existing data, or if you have questions about utilizing our data for your own research please contact us at email@example.com.