Selflessness in the face of unprecedented danger
“You see people facing death without their loved ones, only with people in space suits,” says MSF president Dr. Joanne Liu. “You should not die alone with space-suit men.”
Since the outbreak of the Ebola virus earlier this year, the world has watched helplessly as the disease ravaged the west of Africa. While the world health organisation underestimated the gravity of the situation until the situation got out of hand, Governments and world leaders only started to take notice after one or more of their own citizens contracted the virus.
Fear gripped the world as concerns grew about the possibility and ability of the virus to spread so rapidly even after lengthy precautions have been taken, with western countries panicking by restricting movement from some of the affected Countries.
In the thick of it all, there were men and women who gave up their time and in some cases, their lives to look after the sick and dying in countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia. British nurse Kent Brantly, who survived the disease broke down while addressing a UN conference in September, lamenting the lack of help in the region. The nurse recalled the horrors of watching helplessly as women and children took their last breath, while the world woke up to the enormity of what was essentially an epidemic. TIME magazine in naming their person of the year, went as far as calling the situation with Ebola a ‘War’.
Editor Nancy Gibbs said, “Ebola is a war, and a warning.”
“The global health system is nowhere close to strong enough to keep us safe from infectious disease, and “us” means everyone, not just those in faraway places where this is one threat among many that claim lives every day. The rest of the world can sleep at night because a group of men and women are willing to stand and fight.”
“For tireless acts of courage and mercy, for buying the world time to boost its defences, for risking, for persisting, for sacrificing and saving, the Ebola fighters are TIME’s 2014 Person of the Year.”
When the disease made it into Nigeria, few would have thought that the country- which has the largest black population in the world, would survive it. But thanks to a well-coordinated effort, and again, the efforts of health professionals- like Dr Stella Ameyo Adadedevoh who refused to release a suspected Ebola patient into the public space, thereby saving millions of lives. Her brave colleagues, including a pregnant nurse also lost their lives to the disease.
This award goes to all of them, for their bravery and selflessness. They are the true heroes.