Facebook button to aid ebola battle fund

Facebook is stepping up its efforts to fight ebola by adding a button designed to make it easier for its users to donate to charities battling the disease.

The social media company is also deploying 100 satellite communication terminals to boost internet and phone services to affected areas in West Africa, where the disease has killed nearly 5,000 people.

The programmes come on the heels of a $25m (€20m) donation last month by chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention toward the ebola response.

Facebook says that, over the coming week, its users will see an option to donate to three non-profit organisations fighting ebola. The groups are the International Medical Corps, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Save the Children. Facebook says it chose charities that work on the ground and are able to accept money globally.

In addition, the Menlo Park, California, is donating terminals that communicate via satellite and will provide internet and voice-calling access to remote areas of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The 100 devices will be used to provide mobile broadband and phone services so that medical aid workers can get access to voice and data services.

The devices will also help people with ebola who have been placed in isolation communicate with their families, and health workers who have travelled to Africa keep in touch with friends and family back home, said Chris Weasler, Facebook’s head of spectrum policy.

“These units will provide connectivity in places where there is no coverage,” he said. “In other cases, (they will be) adding more capacity to networks increasingly strained from the influx of responders,” he added.

Facebook is hoping that its donation button will increase the money going toward ebola response efforts. Ebola aid donations have lagged behind large natural disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last year or the earthquake in Haiti four years ago.

So far, the American Red Cross has raised nearly $3.7m for ebola relief. In comparison, it received $486m after the Haiti earthquake.

“We need to get Ebola under control in the near term so that it doesn’t spread further and become a long term global health crisis that we end up fighting for decades at large scale, like HIV or polio,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page last month.

More in this section

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox