A head-spinning week full of public events, charity concerts, benefit auctions, broadcasts, and door-to-door donations in Norway concluded on Sunday evening with a fantastic news: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and DNDi have raised a total of NOK 266.202.750 during the annual Norwegian solidarity campaign TV-Aksjonen – the highest amount ever donated through the event.
‘We are making medical history,’ said Lindis Hurum, General Secretary of MSF in Norway, during a live broadcast at NRK, the TV channel organizing the fundraiser. ‘This investment will save lives,’ added DNDi Founder Bernard Pécoul, who came to Oslo for the campaign.
Dr Pécoul was joined in Norway by Luke Kanyang’areng’, a former visceral leishmaniasis patient from Kenya. Luke is working as a nurse in the same clinic where doctors saved his life 30 years ago, when he was still a young boy. He came to Oslo from Nairobi – his first trip to Europe – to carry the voice and the hopes of the millions of neglected patients.
‘The treatment was terrible, and we were going through a lot of pain. Even sitting down or walking was a problem,’ he said of the treatment he received as a kid, during a live interview on NRK P3 radio . ‘Injections are very painful, and you must get them for 30 days, every day. I cried a lot.’
‘What DNDi is doing is wonderful,’ Luke said. ‘They are doing research to find a better, cheaper treatment – a simpler treatment to take. They work towards achieving oral medication, so that, if you are a school-going child, you can still take your medication, not missing classes – not the way I did. We really appreciate what DNDi is doing.’
TV-Aksjonen is considered the world’s largest fundraiser in terms of donations per capita. The 2022 edition, under the slogan ‘borderless diseases – forgotten patients’, aimed at supporting MSF and DNDi’s fight against deadly diseases, including sleeping sickness and visceral leishmaniasis.
DNDi was founded in 2003 by MSF and medical research organizations in Brazil, India, Kenya, and Malaysia. These organizations have since developed together several life-saving medicines for neglected patients; but a lot remains to be done. In an opinion piece, MSF doctor Morten Rostrup reflected on his experience with sleeping sickness patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the lack of medical research for the most vulnerable: ‘It is great to know that patients with the disease can now be safely treated; but still, we are far from the goal of correcting the imbalance which is still unfortunately there.’
The solidarity campaign involved the charity auction of diverse items, including a signed guitar from the Norwegian singer and songwriter Girl in Red, a signed racket and headband from tennis player Casper Ruud, and… a 100-year-old olive tree.
In Oslo, Luke and Bernard joined the tens of thousands of volunteers who went door-to-door in the cold to collect individual donations. Bernard also accompanied the Mayor of Oslo, Marianne Borgen, to ring at doors, his donation mug in hand.
Through TV-Aksjonen, the Norwegian government donated NOK 50 million to DNDi to support our efforts to develop better treatments for sleeping sickness and visceral leishmaniasis.
‘After two years [marked by the] pandemic, it is crystal clear that serious infectious diseases are affecting everyone on the planet and that diseases know no borders. That is why this year’s TV campaign is so important,’ said Norwegian Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim.
‘The market alone is unable to offer affordable vaccines and medicines to the people who need it the most,’ said Anniken Huitfeldt, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who also took part of the campaign. ‘Many health crises and humanitarian crises do not get the attention they should.’
We would like to thank MSF for inviting us to join this extraordinary event. We are truly humbled by the generosity of so many people who are volunteering their time, learning about MSF and DNDi’s activities, reaching out to neighbours, and organizing their communities to support our work.
Their outstanding help will bring us closer to our goal of developing better, safe, affordable, and accessible medicines for the most neglected. Thank you so much!
Photo credit: Marion Mossing / MSF Norway