New Brunswick, New Jersey.- Members of the Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Hospital community are rallying to support efforts in combating the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. Spearheaded by members of the Perinatal Services at the hospital in collaboration with the Filipino-American Nurses Association at the hospital, on Thursday evening of September 25th there will be a Zumba dance evening featuring line dancing and ballroom dancing from 6 pm to 8 pm in the Arline and Henry Schwartzman Courtyard at the hospital.
Robert Wood Johnson Hospital community members Dora Goodwill and Mafudia Suaray have a personal interest in making people in the United States think about the human lives being lost in West Africa due to Ebola as they themselves have family in an affected region–in Sierra Leone.
According to Goodwill her family has been fortunate from early on to obtain firsthand information from individuals on the ground in Sierra Leone (family and members of the Government of Sierra Leone). The local West African community in New Jersey also has also been benefiting from information from the office of Congresswoman Karen Bass who’s a ranking member on the Committee for Africa. This awareness however, meant that she is very aware of the lack of infrastructure and supplies that front-line health workers are dealing with.
Meanwhile, other RWJ community members were asking Goodwill what could they do to help. These included Malou Torralba and Teresa Damito, coworkers with her in the Perinatal Service department. Damito had coordinated several humanitarian fundraisers in the past through various Nurses Association of NJ (Hurricane Sandy, Katrina, Philadelphia Medical Mission, Typhoon Haiyan, etc.) and Torralba had worked with the Filipino-American Nurses Association. Due to the time constraint they brainstormed the idea to do a Zumba evening as fundraiser event.
In addition, Goodwill had met Dr. Mafudia Suaray, another Rutgers-RWJ community member who has been developing informational outreach materials and coalition connections within the Tri-State West African community in response to the outbreak. They both started supporting the efforts of the non-profit School without Borders-Diaspora Fund based in Philadelphia. That group has a strong working relationship with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health, which has reached out for support.
Goodwill notes that, “The Sierra Leone Ministry of Health (MOH) has started to maintain a website with real-time data. Our wish list of items needed for Ebola eradication efforts were obtained directly from the MOH.”
Though at least 2,400 people have died from the disease, according to the Associated Press, and countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone have resorted to ordering their citizens to stay at home because of the overwhelming risks, the slow pace of global support continues to stymie intervention efforts.
Despite early warnings since March from organizations like Doctors Without Borders, governments and donors did not really start to respond until the end of summer, many months after the worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history had rapidly expanded. As of September 16th, documented pledges or donations totaled $326.7 million, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Financial Tracking Service. Most of these donations (more than 50%) have however, occurred in the last two months.
Unfortunately, the delay in responses has meant that this epidemic has become so large it now requires disaster assistance and long-term development funding up to $1 billion according the World Health Organization estimates.
As such, the efforts of individuals on the ground such as Dora, Malou and Teresa are going to be crucial is helping to stop the epidemic.
The coordinators are imploring the residents of their hospital’s hometown to participate of donate funds so the non-profit can buy medical supplies and other materials for the front-line clinics and staff in Sierra Leone. Dr. Suaray is also working with a coalition of Rutgers students to spread the word amongst the student community.
For further information and ticket sales, contact Teresa Damito at firstname.lastname@example.org, Malou Torralba at 609-203-4484 or Dora Goodwill at email@example.com.