In our ongoing series on the Ebola epidemic, Adam Navis and Liz Waid look at the many heroes of this crisis. These doctors, nurses and ordinary people have sacrificed to protect others.
Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Adam Navis.
And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.
Twenty-two year old Fatu Kekulo is from the country of Liberia. In August of 2014, her whole family was sick. Her mother, father, sister, and cousin all had Ebola. Local hospitals were full of Ebola patients. So, Kekulo had to care for her family at home, alone. She told CNN,
"I cried many times. I said, 'God, you want to tell me I am going to lose my whole family?'"
Kekulo was frightened. But she had an advantage. She was studying to become a health worker. She knew that medical workers wore special protective clothing to treat patients with Ebola. Kekulo did not have these clothes. So she thought of a creative solution using trash bags. Usually, people use these plastic bags to hold waste. But Kekulo wore them on her body to protect herself from getting the virus.
After weeks of care, Kekulo’s mother, father, and sister survived. And Kekulo did not become infected with the virus. Now, aid workers teach Kekulo’s trash bag method to other people.
Today's Spotlight is on heroes in the fight against Ebola.
Every day, healthcare workers risk their lives to care for people with infectious diseases. This is particularly true for Ebola. The Ebola virus spreads through body fluids like blood, vomit, and diarrhoea. Health workers must often come in close contact with a patient’s body fluids. In August of 2014, the World Health Organization released a report. It said that 10% of people who had died in the current Ebola outbreak were health workers. Some medical workers have refused to work with Ebola patients. But many others have bravely chosen to help in the fight against Ebola.
Patrick Woodward tells the story of Ebola hero, Doctor Sheikh Umar Khan.
Doctor Khan is well known in his country, Sierra Leone. He was a respected virologist - an expert in the study of viruses, like Ebola. When the Ebola outbreak came to Sierra Leone, Sheikh Umar Khan was the chief doctor in charge of treating and stopping it. Khan was very careful in using protective clothes. But still, he became sick with Ebola. On July the 29th, 2014, he died. Michael Vandi worked with Khan. He told IRIN News,
"He loved his job because he loved his people. He died because he loved his people."
When the Ebola crisis first began, many people in West Africa did not believe Ebola was real. They did not trust the government. Some people listened to false ideas about the disease. And they did not try to prevent the spread of Ebola. But after Doctor Khan died, things began to change. Many people respected Doctor Khan and his sacrifice. They called him a hero. And his death changed people’s beliefs about the disease. One man from Kenema, Sierra Leone told IRIN News,
"Before, we did not believe Ebola was there. But after Doctor Khan died, now everybody knows it is real."
Before he died, Doctor Khan treated more than one hundred Ebola patients. His brave self-sacrifice taught people that Ebola is real. His death was tragic. But even now, the memory of this hero continues to save lives!
Rena Dam tells the next story about Ebola hero, Nancy Yoko.
Nancy Yoko was a nurse in a hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone. Here, the health workers work long, 12 hours days, every day. Many of them have not had any time off since the Ebola outbreak began. Yoko saw several of her nurse friends die from Ebola. But that did not stop her desire to work. Before her death, Yoko told the UNICEF organization,
"I do not feel afraid. I am a nurse. I am doing my job. We are trained to sacrifice."
Nurses make many sacrifices to care for Ebola patients. They lose many people that they love and care for. They lose some people to death. And they lose other people because of fear and separation. Yoko told UNICEF,
"People know us as the 'Ebola nurses.' No one wants to come close to us. Even our families are afraid they will catch the virus from us."
In September of 2014, Nancy Yoko died from Ebola. She sacrificed her life in service to other people. May her life encourage others to join the fight to end Ebola.
Mike Procter tells today’s last story about Ebola hero, Kandeh Kamara.
Kandeh Kamara is also from the country of Sierra Leone. He is not a trained medical worker. But Kamara and about 20 other young men, do one of the most difficult jobs in the fight against Ebola. They find and bury the dead bodies of Ebola victims. This group calls themselves "The Burial Boys." Their work is very dangerous and difficult. The dead bodies can easily infect them with Ebola. So, the “Burial Boys” must be careful. Often, they drive for hours in the hot sun, finding and collecting bodies. It is dirty and unpleasant work. Kamara told the New York Times,
"There are no other people to do it, so we decided to do it just to help save our country."
At the beginning, “The Burial Boys” were completely volunteer. They did not receive any money for their work. And many of them lost their homes because of their work. Their families, and other members of the community made them leave their homes. Kamara's family told him never to come back. They were afraid he would infect them with Ebola.
Kamara lost his home. And because he was not getting paid, he did not have money to buy food. For many months, he would have to ask people on the streets for food. But still Kamara, and the other Burial Boys, kept working. After some time, officials began paying “The Burial Boys” for their work. But Kamara does not do the work for the money. He just wants to help end the Ebola crisis. He told the New York Times,
"If I have a long life, I can go back to my people. I can talk to them. I can tell them, 'I am doing this job for you. Maybe then, they can understand me.'"
The fight against Ebola is risky. It requires great sacrifice and the work seems never ending. But every day, Ebola heroes just like Doctor Khan, Nurse Yoko and “The Burial Boys” do all they can to fight Ebola. And it is their work that will end the crisis!
The writer of this program was Jen Hawkins. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “Heroes of Ebola."
We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!