Sunday, October 2, 2011

Worth Fighting For

Yesterday I spent $5.95 on a Pizza Pollo at Recker’s. It tasted like happiness, as always. It also cost the same as about 12 human lives.

Let me explain.

This week is ND Fighting NTDs Awareness Week. NTDs are Neglected Tropical Diseases, a collection of chronic, preventable diseases that plague over 1.4 billion people worldwide. That’s 20% of the global population. All of these diseases can be treated or prevented for just 50 cents per person per year.

NTDs are chronic parasitic illnesses. They are mostly transmitted through water, dirt and human feces. I’ll spare you a technical rundown of the diseases, but just know that they cause unimaginable suffering: malnutrition, respiratory illness, debilitating and painful blindness, unmanageable swelling of the limbs, mental retardation, and the works. The medicines to treat NTDs have been developed and donated by major pharmaceutical companies, but we have no way of physically getting the treatments to the people who so desperately need help. We need money to transport the medication and to train and educate distributors to safely administer the medicine.

This is no easy undertaking, but it is do-able. That’s why ND Fighting NTDs is launching a major initiative around campus this week to raise money and awareness. You’ll see us and our posters all over, but here’s a quick overview of the events you don’t want to miss. We will be giving out free Einstein Bros bagels in front of Debartolo on Monday, and hosting a documentary screening on South Quad that evening. Catch us on Tuesday in Geddes Auditorium for a faculty panel to discuss various solutions to global health problems, and on Thursday stop by Lafortune for a Dirt Cup Dessert sale.

If you are starting to feel really guilty about your latest Starbucks coffee, don’t. I don’t feel guilty about my pizza, but I will go to Five Guys Eddy Street on Wednesday evening after 7 pm, because 15% of all proceeds will be donated to fight NTDs. And I will indulge in a Dessert Cup on Thursday (buy one with FlexPoints!) to support the cause. And yeah, for the chocolate, too.

But really, why should you care? NTDs are neglected precisely because no one cares. They're chronic. They don't kill people quickly so they don't inspire the same horror and fear as deadly diseases like Malaria. Because of this, they just don't have the star power. They don't get the attention they deserve and as a result they don't get funds or global interest. These diseases are major humanitarian problems, though. Their symptoms collectively slow down economies, prevent children from reaching their full mental capacity, and imprison entire populations in a cycle of pain, poverty, and illness.

This is so much more than a medical issue. This is a social issue.

We are seeing progress in the fight against NTDs and it's because people like you and I are finally mobilizing, so I really I hope I see you at one of our events. NTDs are fixable, and as a proud member of the Fighting Irish Community I will happily fight to end the neglect. So should you. 

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