More than 360 African health workers died of Ebola this year. Some of them made headlines around the world, such as Dr. Umar Sheik Khan, the Sierra Leonean physician who treated more than 100 Ebola patients before contracting the disease himself.
But most of the fallen health workers didn’t get that degree of attention. They were doctors, nurses, midwives, lab technicians. They didn’t have the proper protective equipment. As they tried to save the lives of others, they sacrificed their own.
The loss is tremendous. Liberia, for example, a nation of 4.3 million, had only about 50 doctorsbefore the Ebola outbreak. The country has reportedly lost four of them to the epidemic.
In some West African clinics and medical facilities, the faces of the lost health workers stare out from tribute walls: Photos of the deceased are posted in hallways outside offices and examination rooms. A person’s name and job may be scrawled in ink underneath the photo, along with a personal note.
At Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone, the messages included:
“Angie, We all love U but God loves U. May her soul rest in perfect peace.”
Photo: Theses 32 health workers are among the 360-plus who sacrificed their lives in the fight against Ebola. Their names are listed at the bottom of the post. The photos are displayed at the Liberian Midwives Association in Monrovia. (NPR Composite)
Africa is the world’s second largest continent. But it’s not unusual for Americans to classify it as a single entity, ignoring the many cultural, economic and geographic differences between its 47 countries. If three countries in Africa are going through an Ebola epidemic, the other 44 must be too, right?
Liberia’s last Ebola patient was discharged on Thursday after a ceremony in the capital, Monrovia, bringing to zero the number of known cases in the country and marking a milestone in West Africa’s battle against the disease.
Officials in Monrovia, the city where the raging epidemic littered the streets with bodies only five months ago, celebrated even as they warned that Liberia was at least weeks away from being officially declared free of Ebola. They also noted that the disease had flared up recently in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea, the two other countries hardest hit by it.
“It was touching, it was pleasing,” Tolbert Nyenswah, the deputy health minister in charge of Liberia’s fight against Ebola, said in a telephone interview about the ceremony. “There was a lot of excitement because we feel that this is a victory.”
A day after the World Health Organization declared Nigeria free of Ebola, the doctor who treated the country’s first case of the deadly virus and later died from the disease herself is being hailed as a hero for helping stop the outbreak. Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, a doctor at First Consultant Hospital, oversaw treatment of Patrick Sawyer, Nigeria’s Ebola patient zero, when he arrived sick in Lagos, Nigeria’s former capital and Africa’s largest city, on a flight from Liberia in July.