Ebola may seem like a faraway health problem.
But one local doctor, who was worked in Africa with Médecins San Frontières (MSF) on several occasions, is asking residents to learn about the deadly virus and donate funds to the organization that is currently caring for victims of the disease in Liberia.
A fundraising showing of Ebola War, a documentary by David Belluz, will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 30 at the Salmar Classic Theatre.
The 45-minute film documents how doctors and nurses in Uganda courageously treated Ebola victims in the outbreak of 2000.
“It focuses on rural doctors and how they faced it and the stigma of the disease, and how they to worked in the Ebola ward knowing they were under-resourced and didn’t have the protection they needed,” says Currie, who notes a Canadian filmmaker who was working in Uganda on another project at the time elected to document the local response.
Babu Stanley, one of the nurses in the film, got the disease and survived it. He now works for MSF in Liberia and will take part in a question-and-answer period via Skype, following the film.
Former MSF health professionals and aid workers will also take part in the session and high school students will demonstrate protective gear.
Currie, who is organizing the Nov. 30 event, believes there is still a window of opportunity in which to shut the outbreak down.
“It’s not the first outbreak of Ebola, but it’s the worst by a magnitude of about 10,” he says, pointing out outbreaks have been successfully stopped before.
“For me, the compelling reason is the number of deaths happening in Africa, but you can also look at this on a very selfish basis. If we can stop this at its source, we can keep it from crossing our borders.”
Catching the virus is difficult for someone who is not in direct contact with someone who has the disease.
It doesn’t travel by air but is transferred through body fluids – vomit, feces or blood. On an object like a door handle, the virus would be live for about four hours, says Currie, but up to four days after death on a body.
He says the current outbreak is revealing a 70 per cent mortality rate.
“What’s really important is this is more than a medical disease; yes, we have 14,000 people with the disease, but this is a humanitarian catastrophe in terms of the impact on the economy and the health-care system and access to food,” says Currie. “We have to remember that many people in these areas live on subsistence wages; they earn a small daily wage and use it to buy food they eat that day.”
Currie says the concept of a 21-day quarantine to make sure an individual has not contracted the disease doesn’t work when they have no food and no money.
“They can’t work or buy food and this is where we need to expand our focus,” he says. “Medical practice has to meet the demands of survival. We need to provide support to an entire community that is devastated by the outbreak.”
Currie points out that prior to the outbreak, Liberia had about 50 or 60 doctors working in the entire country, which is about the number of physicians practising in Salmon Arm.
He says more than 500 health-care workers in the three West African countries where the outbreak is occurring have contracted the disease.
“When you think of the long-term impacts after the outbreak is finished, it’s gutted the health-care system,” says Currie. “MSF is the largest organization (in Liberia) with more than 3,000 people working on Ebola projects, with a total of more than 600 in-patient isolation beds.”
MSF is an international, independent, medical humanitarian relief organization that provides emergency care to people affected by disaster, conflict, epidemics and those excluded from healthcare.
MSF works independently of political, religious or military agendas, delivering medical assistance based on human need.
Admission to the Salmon Arm fundraising event is by donation by cash or cheque, with tax receipts available for donations of more than $10.
There will also be a bake sale.
People who are unable to attend the fundraiser but still wish to donate, may do so online at www.msf.ca/en/donate-now.