More Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than succumbed to Ebola. Yet, to judge by media coverage of the outbreak during the latter part of 2014, you would guess the future of Western civilisation had hung in the balance.
Now that it is clear the vast majority of dead (7,000 so far, says the World Health Organization) are Africans, the media has moved on. However, the furore was revealing on many levels. The courage and (literally) the self-sacrifice of African medical staff who died trying to save people, has received comparatively little attention. Nor has the African Union been held to account for ignoring the outbreak for eight months before convening a meeting to plan a coordinated response.
At Network for Africa we try to use the Kardashian Test, applying a little perspective to the ways in which we strive to empower vulnerable people in the developing world.
For instance, while it is tragic that 7,000 have died of Ebola, let’s remember that 3,000 children a day die from malaria. That’s a child every thirty seconds, according to UNICEF. Or more than a million people a year, most of whom are younger than five years of age.
And 39 million people have died of HIV/AIDS since the disease appeared in the 1980s.
Our partners at our projects in Rwanda and Uganda know we have limited financial resources. They tell us where our support can have the greatest impact on the most people in a lasting way. Since our partner PCCO started distributing malaria nets and educating people in how to use the nets effectively, the incidence of infection has plummeted.
Stopping malaria is neither expensive nor difficult, and the benefits for the whole community are enormous. This is clearly good for the children who may now make it to adolescence, but it is also a bonus for their mothers, on a practical as well as an emotional level. In a society where women spend so much time caring for the sick, as well as doing all the domestic and agricultural work, having healthy children reduces the enormous burden they carry.
The Kardashian Test also leads us to make sure all the people attending our projects get tested for HIV. We connect those who test positive to professional help in getting medical care and counselling. In Uganda we have an agricultural work group for those people living with HIV who may not be strong enough to share an equal burden in the fields. And in all our activities we keep striving to involve men, as well as women, in understanding the benefits of birth control and protection.
This kind of work doesn’t grab the headlines the way Ebola does, but it impacts many, many lives in a profound manner. If you are able to support us, please click here. If you have been supporting us, then thank you very much. Your generosity has an impact greater than you may ever know.