How To Help Combat Ebola In West Africa, Because The Outbreak Isn't Done Yet
The West African Ebola oubtreak reached a major milestone. On Saturday, news broke that Liberia, the nation worst-stricken by the highly lethal virus, had been declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization. It's a major victory for the volunteers and medical professionals who've been working bravely to halt the outbreak. But, if you're wondering how to help combat Ebola in West Africa, this is a good time to do so — Sierra Leone and Guinea aren't out of the woods yet, after all.
It's important to be vigilant about disease outbreaks in moments like this. It's something the WHO warned about months ago — even as positive news starts to roll in, if it makes people less attentive to the public health, things can start to go south again. This is apparent by looking at the aforementioned Guinea and Sierra Leone, where Ebola cases have slightly increased. In short, things have been looking up, but nothing's over until it's over.
As such, it's always useful to think about how you can help. Here are a few options if you want to contribute to combating this outbreak, whether you do it financially, through donating your time, or through getting involved politically.
Donate Your Money To A Reputable Cause
Charity is tricky business nowadays, as the advent of the internet has made it easier than every before for people for run money-making schemes. This happened in Haiti after the massive 2010 earthquake, and it's always a depressing phenomenon, if somewhat predictable.
Basically, if you're the kind of person who's got some income to spare, always make sure you thoroughly vet any organizations you're thinking of donating to. But if you're looking for a well-known, well-respected choice, consider Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), which has been doing great work throughout West Africa.
Donate Your Unused Vacation Time
As Reuters' Mitch Lipka noted in October of last year, IRS guidelines allow workers to convert unusued vacation time into money through their employer, which can then be used to donate to an Ebola-related cause. And even better, this would qualify you for a tax write-off, so everybody beenfits.
Obviously, this still demands a certain amount of privilege on your part — not everybody is lucky enough to get vacation time. You can check out the IRS guidelines for some more details (although I admit, IRS web resource might not be a popular visit for most people).
Don't Limit Yourself Just To Ebola
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa isn't just about the specific virus and it's contagiousness, not exactly. It's also about the flagging, often downright insufficient health care infrastructures that exist in a number of economically-strapped African states.
This is a huge systemic problem, and admittedly, it's not within the power of any one person to change. But if you're feeling motivated towards charitable giving because of Ebola, consider directing some of that attention in other directions, too.
According to the WHO, the top public health threats in Africa are HIV/AIDS, diarrhea, malaria and respiratory infections. If you've got the means, consider donating to some specific relief causes for these awful maladies — UNICEF, in particular, has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS charity for years.
Speak Out Against Ebola Fearmongering
If the most strident voices in favor of harsh measures against the Ebola outbreak had been listened to — like Texas Senator Ted Cruz, for example — who knows what would've happened. Public health officials (including the Centers for Disease Control) opposed such proposals, on the grounds that it would've made it harder to get volunteers and health workers in and out of Africa, hampering the relief effort.
Similarly, some U.S. lawmakers have played up the threat of Ebola in the United States, with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul questioning medical expert opinion the virus' transmissability, and theorizing we could end up with "a whole ship of our soldiers" catching Ebola.
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