Friday, August 29, 2014

Bringing Attention to a Debilitating Disease (Without Having Ice Water Poured on Me)

From ALS Foundation Web site
Thanks to the  Ice Bucket Challenge, I am planning to sendi a donation to Doctors without Borders (Medicins sans Frontiers, MSF). Wait a minute, you say, isn't the Ice Bucket Challenge all about raising money for ALS?  And what does Doctors without Borders have to do with ALS?

There is a  common thread between the ALS Foundation and MSF: both organizations care deeply about raising awareness and taking action on debilitating diseases.  The focus of ALS is on what is commonly known as Lou Gherig's Disease (a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

MSF, of course, is involved with a broad range of diseases, illnesses and health-related concerns, but primarily those that occur as a result of emergency and poverty-related situations.  Health professionals and others who volunteer with MSF  provide medical treatment, support and medication for people facing health emergencies. The organization is currently working in the area where the outbreak of ebola hemorrhagic fever epidemic has occurred.

MSF: Global Effort on Ebola 'Inadequate'
Since a good part of the work of Doctors without Borders is to raise awareness, there is concern about the general lack of international action on the ebola outbreak. "Despite the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration that the largest-recorded ebola hemorrhagic fever epidemic is an international health emergency, the global effort to stem the outbreak is dangerously inadequate," said Doctors without Borders.

"Working in response to the epidemic since March, MSF currently has 1,086 staff operating in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, treating a rapidly increasing number of patients," said Doctors without Borders. "MSF’s top priority is to provide care for patients infected with the virus. The organization has already deployed the maximum number of its experienced human resources." Read More

Photo: The ONE Campaign
ONE: Let's Stop 'Scary' Disease
Other organizations like the ONE Campaign are also working to bring attention to the ebola crisis."This virus is hitting countries with some of the weakest health systems in the world. Places that don't have enough trained doctors and nurses. Clinics that don't have enough supplies to run labs," adds ONE. "Villages that don't have running water or reliable electricity. This outbreak is showing just how important it is to have strong health systems in place. And it shows why ONE members like you continue to fight for long-term investments in health...We need to work together now to stop ebola in its tracks. Yes, this is a scary and infectious disease - but it can be stopped. And although you may feel removed from the crisis, there are still ways you can help."

ONE lists four worthy organizations providing support on the ground, including MSF, Catholic Relief Services, Africare, and Samaritan Purse.(Note" Donations are not necessarily earmarked for the ebola fight--they simply support the organization)

On the surface, the Ice Bucket Challenge seems like a big summer gimmick. But there was a lot of good that came from the campaign. The activity has brought  people from all walks of life and political persuasions to raise a whopping $23 million in donations for the ALS Foundation.  Heck, even my brother, a Jesuit priest, took the challenge while wearing his Roman collar (and I have a video to prove it).

I am concerned,  however, that the effort to raise money for ALS is overshadowing the urgency of the Ebola outbreak. Therefore, instead of having  a bucket of ice water dumped on my head, I have personally decided to write a check to MSF and write blog post about supporting efforts to address the ebola outbreak.  But I thank the ALS Foundation and its Ice Bucket Challenge  for inspiring me to take this action.

(Note: While I've chosen to focus on the eboloa crisis, some folks are using the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for both the ALS Foundation and MSF.  Check out this video)

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