It was nice to see a respected New York Times' international columnist credit our project, Nothing But Nets, as one of the key drivers behind making Malaria a relevant issue and putting a huge dent in the problem. Now they want to transfer some of that grassroots energy behind an equally horrific killer - pneumonia. It will take a lot more than a trendy brand name however.
In today's NYT, Nicholas Kristoff wrote "Psst. Pneumonia. Pass it On", a call to action for a global pneumonia response to put the issue on the agenda of world leaders and donors. As an exmple how to do this, he quoted Lance Lanifer, an early leader with the anti-Malaria movement:
Some how, some way no grassroots movement has ever materialized to fight pneumonia, the world's largest killer of children under the age of five. Two weeks ago the largest pneumonia-related cause on Facebook was 67 members. To put this in context the top five health related causes on Facebook together have 13,074,412 members. When Facebookers and other world citizens ignore pneumonia it enables our world leaders to ignore pneumonia - causing a critical underfunding of an easily diagnosable and treatable disease. We've seen this movie before and we know what we need to do. Our experience pioneering the fight against malaria taught us many things.
The coolest stat in the piece:
Today bednet coverage is approximately 40% but a few years ago bednet coverage was less than 5% in almost all areas affected by malaria.
WOW, now that's incredible progress! When I was visiting the UN Foundation in DC last year, they mentioned that, beyond the $24M raised, the biggest thing Nothing But Nets did was "make Malaria sexy", which I hadn't even thought of before. Bring attention to something that's scary and obscure matters.
But it's a lot more than just cool branding. I think the biggest contribution NBN added to the issue was to:
- take an overwhelming problem
- simplify it with stories
- show a way that average people could actually fix it
- show progress and impact
- all while keeping it real
It's been amazing watching the site, now into it's 4th year, continue to raise money, reach new supporters, and of course send life saving bednets to Africa. It does this by reporting real time results and telling true, and often hopeful stories of the collective impact of everyone who is involved.
Like this screenshot, taken from today:
Imagine, real stories of actual HOPE and progress from a fundraising campaign! Closing words from Lance:
Malaria NO MORE, Nothing But Nets, Against Malaria - new organizations formed in the last three or four years breathed significant life into the campaign to fight malaria. We need to let students, volunteers, leading business people, columnists and celebrities know that just as we all re-energized the fight to end malaria our help is desperately required to end the nightmare of pneumonia.
Politicians and government funding will follow grassroots support. In the presidential elections Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain all committed to fight against malaria. If we all do our part to fight pneumonia then in 2012 the presidential candidates will highlight their commitments to end pneumonia.
I do hope other charity leaders follow NBN's lead, but also that they know it takes a heck of a lot more than a hip brand and a cool looking website to grow a movement. It takes hope.