Facebook looks to raise awareness, money to fight Ebola

Just weeks after Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave $25 million to fight Ebola in Africa, his company is rolling out three initiatives to raise awareness — and more money.

Unlike the billions of dollars that flowed to relief agencies in the aftermath of major natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, charitable giving to battle the Ebola outbreak has been trickling into the stricken region.

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Which is why Facebook is using its global reach to send an urgent message to its 1.3 billion users: Nonprofit groups on the front lines of the humanitarian crisis in West Africa need help.

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Over the next week, a message will appear at the top of News Feeds giving people the option to donate to three nonprofits: International Medical Corps, the Red Cross and Save the Children.

Mark Zuckerberg
Getty Images

"This is something Mark really cares about and that Facebook really cares about as well," said Naomi Gleit, Facebook's vice president of product management.

This isn't the first time Facebook has made charitable giving as easy as a click of a "donate" button.

After Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, Facebook launched a "Donate Now" initiative that made it easier for people to donate to those affected by the storm.

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And Facebook was the platform that gave rise to the Ice Bucket Challenge viral fundraising phenomenon which raised $115 million and awareness for ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. More than 10 billion ice bucket videos were viewed by 440 million people around the world on Facebook.

According to nonprofits working on the ground in West Africa, fundraising for Ebola has been slow to take off.

Three months after the Haiti earthquake, more than 8,000 people had made a donation in support of International Medical Corps' efforts there, after the earthquake in Japan, more than 10,000. But three months into raising funds for Ebola, only 824 people have given money, the nonprofit says.

Large gifts from individuals have made the biggest contributions to fighting the Ebola epidemic so far. Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan gave $25 million to the foundation that funnels private donations to the Centers for Disease Control.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $50 million starting with contributions to the CDC, the World Health Organization and Unicef. Paul Allen, who helped found Microsoft with Gates, has promised $12.9 million to the CDC and $2.8 million to the American Red Cross.

The race to stop Ebola
The race to stop Ebola

"We think there is real potential to raise awareness of these charities working on Ebola. Starting tomorrow millions of people around the world will see this message at the top of their News Feed that encourages them to learn more about Ebola and to support the organizations on the front lines," Gleit said.

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Facebook is also collaborating with UNICEF to get information on Ebola prevention, symptoms and treatment to people in affected regions.

And Facebook is working with NetHope to boost communications for medical and aid workers in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, said Chris Weasler, Facebook's head of spectrum policy and connectivity planning.

This week Facebook is donating 100 mobile satellite terminals to be deployed in remote areas of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone so medical and aid workers can communicate, he said.