Masego “Maps” Maponyane has teamed up with Doctors Without Borders/MSF to start the #ActForCAR Fundraising Drive which aims to raise R550 000 from South Africans to help relieve the poor healthcare and living conditions in the Central African Republic. On World Malaria Day, we caught up with him to find out more about the project, raising awareness about what’s going on in the CAR – and how you can get involved.
GLAMOUR: Just how bad is the state of healthcare in the Central African Republic?
Maps: Even before the 2013 coup and the waves of violence that followed, the lack of healthcare was severe with a fatal level of neglect as the healthcare system fell apart. There were very few medical professionals working outside the capital Bangui – during the conflict, most of them abandoned their posts because they weren’t paid or they feared for their lives.
An MSF research report published in 2011 showed that the country faced a chronic health crisis with high numbers of malaria cases and malnutrition. Five separate surveys showed that death rates are at an all-time high and with a complete collapse of health services, the current violence has made this chronic health crisis worse. Malaria was, and remains, the main killer among children.
Today between 30%-70% of cases treated in MSF facilities are for malaria. Emergency medical care and maternal health services aren’t good at all but MSF is able to provide this care free of charge.
GLAMOUR: There’s some interesting debate at the moment around people saying that they’re for a cause and creating awareness but never actually doing anything – what do you have to add to that?
Maps: Since the crisis in the CAR has been brewing quietly out of sight and mind for most South Africans, it’s important that they’re made aware of the individual impact it has on people – that’s what Gail Womersley, an MSF clinical psychologist, and I did when we launched #ActForCAR last month.
We can’t get South Africans involved without a discussion about the health needs in the crisis. I might not be a doctor or a nurse but I can help get support for a cause like this because people are familiar with me. My role is to help put it on the agenda for them and to point out how people can get involved.
GLAMOUR: The rainy season is approaching there and this is the time where malaria infection is at its highest. The country has also recently experienced increased levels of malnutrition, but not many people are aware of these facts. Is the media paying enough attention to these crises and informing people on how to get involved and help make a change?
Maps: During March and April South African media reporting on the CAR crisis picked up and a team of journalists travelled to CAR to report first hand on the crisis. As with other crises associated with conflict, the media pays a lot of attention to the violence, the killings, the wounds and injuries.
What we don’t see much of, is how this impacts on people’s ability to get healthcare services while they’re displaced and traumatised. It’s an open conflict but pregnant women still need to give birth in a safe and clean environment. This is what you don’t hear about often, and how we can make a change by supporting medical work.
Even before the crisis thousands of people died due to preventable and treatable diseases like malaria, but South African and international media were slow to report on this. In refugee camps in Chad and Cameroon, thousands of people arrived weak and in need of urgent help because of their harsh journeys, and MSF is treating many children who suffer from malnutrition. These are the things we need to focus on now.
GLAMOUR: International Malaria Day just passed – did #ActForCAR have anything planned?
Maps: During International Malaria Day MSF highlighted the direct needs of the thousands of people who require malaria treatment and the need to ensure that safety of patients and staff at health facilities: in recent weeks there have been a lot of incidents where medical facilities were targeted by armed men.
GLAMOUR: How can GLAMOUR readers help your cause?
Maps: As little as R200 helps MSF buy malaria treatment to cure 26 adults with the disease in just three days. To keep up their work, South Africans can donate at www.msf.org.za or SMS “Join” to 42110 to give R30 once-off. Readers can also keep the conversation on CAR going on Twitter by following @MSF_southafrica for crisis updates and the #ActForCAR hashtag.