Ebola: Why is it so bad? (Part 2)

This post continues the discussion from my last post, which raised the question: why has the Ebola crisis become so severe? One contributing factor: It’s hard to fundraise to fight Ebola. NPR’s Planet Money discussed this dismal fact in a recent episode.

The main points of their analysis:
+ A sudden crisis garners more attention. For example, the Haitian Earthquake in 2010 generated a lucrative media spectacle. However, gradual-onset crises, such as famine or Ebola, are not as well suited for the sensationalist news cycle.
+ People like to donate to things that they can make better right away; no matter what, Ebola will get worse before it is brought under control.
+ The public generally sees governmental and intergovernmental agencies (for example, the WHO) as holding responsibility for pandemics.
+ Charitable organizations are reticent to reallocate funds between causes or save up funds in anticipation of future disasters after a Red Cross PR debacle in the aftermath of 9/11.

The CBC has also documented the flat tire on Ebola fundraising efforts. The spoke with Kevin Allan, a representative of charitable organization Americares, who noted ,”We have not yet crossed the million dollar mark. To give you some comparison, about five weeks after Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines last year, we had raised about five times that.”

Give the Planet Money episode a listen; it’s a thought-provoking and somewhat disturbing exposé of the sometimes irrational apportionment and timing of aid that stems from the very rational reason why people donate: it makes them feel good.

Of course, many other factors are contributing to the severity of the Ebola crisis. Next week, I’ll discuss another. Stay tuned.

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