A lack of awareness about MS and difficulty accessing free treatment are just two of the challenges people with MS in Egypt face every day.
Mostafa, an engineer with MS living in Cairo, says: ‘What caused me the most harm was the ignorance of those around me. I knew little about MS and found it hard to grasp the reality of living with this kind of disease. Some people thought it was a psychological disease; others put it down to laziness. They were unwilling to accept official medical opinion, which made me doubt the care I was receiving.’
Students in Egypt have their treatment costs paid for by their university, but once they have completed their studies they are no longer eligible. As a result, some students deliberate fail their exams so they can continue with their treatment. Abdelrahman, who holds a degree in engineering, explains: ‘I was afraid to graduate. I had to choose between my future and my health.”
In 2011, to help spread awareness of MS and support people like Mostafa and Abdelrahman, a group of people with MS established an MS organisation in Cairo, called MS Care.
MS Care was one of three organisations selected to be part of our three-year capacity building programme in the Arab region. Through mentoring, training, visits and partnership working, the programme aims to develop MS organisations’ capacity and build the skills of their volunteers and staff, enabling them to better respond to the needs of people with MS.
At the start of the programme, MS Care identified planning, fundraising and communication skills as key areas of organisational development need. In 2013, we hired a local consultant to mentor and train MS Care’s voluntary board, helping them develop their first strategic plan, vision, mission, objectives and activities.
Dr Mai Sharawy, trustee of MS Care, said ‘The strategy has revealed what we have done before, what we are doing now and what we need to do better in the future. It was useful to put the internal building of the society at the top of the priorities as, without that, the work won’t go well and our efforts will remain fragmented.’
In 2014, we supported MS Care with communication training and crafting communication messages for stakeholders. We also helped them to develop a new website.
We are now working with MS Care on fundraising by helping them to develop their first fundraising plan, training volunteers on fundraising skills and supporting them to implement the fundraising plan.