World MS Day events against the odds
World MS Day is a day to take action, to celebrate and raise awareness, but it’s also a day of solidarity for people living with MS around the world. MS knows no international borders, and sometimes the lives of people affected by MS are made even harder by disasters and conflict in their country. Despite these difficult situations, a number of MS organisations in countries experiencing war, political unrest and disasters are still planning World MS Day events. This gives us an added motivation, to reach out to others affected by MS and say “you are not alone.”
The Al Hayah MS Society held a World MS Day event for people with MS on May 16, despite the military confrontations against terrorism and difficult security situation in Iraq at the moment. Taghreed Mahdi, President of Al Hayah MS Society in Iraq told us:
“This situation makes movement and communication difficult for the society. The patients’ insistence and persistence in continuing the preparations reminded us that these challenges are just another part of their fight against MS. This has given us the motivation to keeping working and never stop.”
Life is difficult and uncertain for everyone in Yemen as a multifaceted conflict envelopes the country. For people with MS in Yemen life is harder than ever. The Multiple Sclerosis Patients Society of Yemen-Aden had planned a programme of events for World MS Day 2015, but were forced to cancel them. Earlier this week Jeiab from the society explained why:
“The war has paralyzed movement in Aden and more than half a million people have been displaced. For the last month and a half the people of Aden Gorge have been living in an ongoing war. The siege has cut off electricity, water, internet and telecommunication service so we cannot use social networking to communicate.
We apologize that we have to cancel the celebration of MS patients for this year due to circumstances beyond our control, but we are living in a war. We hope that you accept our apologies and we wish the associations around the world lasting success.”
2014 was the first time World MS Day has been celebrated in Libya. This year, the Attfaal Association of Libya is organising an event in Benghazi in collaboration with a Benghazi medical centre. They are doing this despite the day to day challenges in Libya, which include:
- Political conflict and legitimacy confusion (two parliaments and two governments), which makes it hard to conduct official procedures
- Daily blackouts for up to 12 hours
- Serious terrorist threats – secure venues are unaffordable without an event sponsor
- Most of the medical companies involved with the MS Community have already fled the country and have withdrawn their support for the event, which puts more pressure on financial capacity
Despite ongoing conflict, life goes on for the people of Syria. The Syrian MS Society had planned a World MS Day event for people with MS, but due to the war this was not possible. There is still good news coming from Syria, as we see in this letter from the president of the MS Society, Abir Loutfi:
“Dear friends, MS patients in the Arab countries, and in particular in Syria.
I send you my warm regards and wishes to be cured from MS very soon. Brothers and sisters in Syria: We would like to inform you that we are running a programme of activities.
To all patients in Syria, we never forget you. Despite the catastrophic war and terrorism that has affected our country we have been able to deliver treatments to the national hospitals in Allepo, so that treatment is available for patients in the Northern and Northern-East regions. This was very challenging and it was delayed, but now treatments have been made available to you. We thank you for your understanding and patience.”
Haiti is still recovering from the devastating earthquake that struck five years ago. Yet hope shines for people with MS in Haiti. This World MS Day ‘Association Haitienne de Sclerose En Plaque’ is holding an event to raise awareness of MS in the country.
These stories of events being planned for World MS Day despite the challenges faced are an inspiration to us all. By sending a thank you message you can show that together we are #strongerthanMS
Send a thank you message to Libya
Send a thank you message to Iraq
Send a thank you message to Haiti
Send a thank you message to Syria
Send a thank you message to Yemen