Nurith Aizenman

Just a few months ago, Tom Inglesby helped gather top officials from governments, businesses and health organizations around the world to play a kind of war game.

"It was a scenario looking at global consequences of a major new epidemic," says Inglesby, who directs the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University.

Last fall, Félix Tshisekedi, the president of Democratic Republic of Congo, made a triumphant prediction: Before 2019 was over, the Ebola outbreak that had ravaged his country for more than a year would finally be brought to a close. Already, health workers had managed to quash the Ebola virus in all but a small set of remaining hot zones. New infections had slowed to a trickle.

Dr. Marie-Roseline Bélizaire had just gathered the members of her Ebola response team for a morning meeting when they heard the rat-a-tat of gunfire.

As holiday donations kick off with this Giving Tuesday, we're going to bring up an aspect of contributing to charity that makes a lot of us ... uncomfortable.

We're talking about the idea that every time we divvy up our money among good causes, we're making a moral judgment: Who is most deserving of our help and which outcomes are most valuable?

Over the past decade there has been a surge of interest in a novel approach to helping the world's poor: Instead of giving them goods like food or services like job training, just hand out cash — with no strings attached. Now a major new study suggests that people who get the aid aren't the only ones who benefit.

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