Tracking Ebola: the first case in Mali

A great guy I met in Bamako just informed me that Ebola has now been confirmed in Mali, which shares a big chunk of Guinea’s border. It’s actually quite surprising that it hasn’t hit sooner. But it’s exactly the kind of situation that never should have happened, but keeps happening anyway, due to a lack of adequate protocols on the ground; hundreds of miles of public-transport travel, with a sick baby that has no idea about contagiousness or public safety.

But as the Western public focus on Ebola turns away from West Africa and inwards to Canadian and American policies, we are losing sight on how bad the situation really is there. Instead of re-investing and containing the disease at its source, we are scrambling to make sure it doesn’t cross over onto our doorstep. Obviously, we are developing necessary and important policies, but what’s happening to the effort in the area where this 2-year-old girl in Mali marks a staggering 10,000 cases, is failing completely to address the issue.

My questions lately have been,

Where is the call to action? Where are the organizations on the ground, and why aren’t they clamouring for help? 

And, well, they have been. Kind of. But in a very generalized, and non-population-targeted sense. For example, Médecins Sans Frontières has been doing incredible work from day 1, and early on, had their requests for increased funding and manpower essentially rejected as overreacting by the WHO. From then, we heard over and over that those are the things that they need. But to an average Canadian, we don’t respond well to that. We aren’t really the “take initiative” kind of folk. When we read an article stating that an organization like MSF is absolutely at the end of their rope, that they need assistance, new recruits, and more money, it allows us to think, “Gosh, why doesn’t the WHO do something about that?” But why, when Hurricane Katrina hit, or the 2010 Haiti earthquake happened, was the public motivated to donate millions of dollars to the cleanup relief efforts? More specifically, why isn’t that happening NOW?

Why? Because we need specific and targeted requests. 

We need dollar figures, that give each person an opportunity to text to donate, round up their bill at the grocery store, or charge their card through an online forum, to reach the financial goal for enabling success in the region. And we need short- and long-term recruitment strategies that don’t just put the question out into the air, but really reaches out to every single tradesperson and healthcare worker out there, and asks them “How about YOU? Can you do this?”

Because if we work with your employer to negotiate an 8-week leave, and can provide you with a comprehensive training package that will address all of your safety concerns, I don’t see why this can’t work.

And I frankly just don’t see why this isn’t happening. MSF, Unicef, and the Red Cross all have dedicated recruitment and fundraising departments, but they seem to me to be extremely underutilized, as you can only find the available avenues for donation and volunteering when you actively search for it. And there is NO apparent collaborative approach. Nobody’s matching donations, there are no viral social media campaigns.

We needed action months ago, but it’s really spiralling out of control. If you want public health measures that address the spread of this virus, don’t forget that we’re not the victims here, and while yeah, maybe we will be, but the course of action is not just to bolster our own measures, but primarily and most importantly, target the source. 

So despite the lack of a coordinated fundraising campaign, I urge all of you to take a minute and think about making a donation to fighting the viral spread in West Africa, even $1 is enough. It is better than nothing.

If you don’t know where to donate, consider MSF, the CDC, or the Canadian Red Cross (which is actually offering a dollar-for-dollar matching by HSBC until October 31!).

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