Time magazine has named its Person of the Year, but in fact it’s a whole group of people: those helping to fight the Ebola virus.
The special issue features five separate covers, each telling the story of what it calls an “Ebola fighter” working in West Africa.
Time Editor Nancy Gibbs wrote: “2014 is the year an outbreak turned into an epidemic… It reached crowded slums in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone; it traveled to Nigeria and Mali, to Spain, Germany and the U.S. It struck doctors and nurses in unprecedented numbers, wiping out a public-health infrastructure that was weak in the first place…. Anyone willing to treat Ebola victims ran the risk of becoming one…. Governments weren’t equipped to respond; the World Health Organization was in denial and snarled in red tape.
She continued: “First responders were accused of crying wolf, even as the danger grew. But the people in the field, the special forces of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Christian medical-relief workers of Samaritan’s Purse and many others from all over the world fought side by side with local doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams. Ask what drove them and some talk about God; some about country; some about the instinct to run into the fire, not away.
“Ebola is a war, and a warning,” said Gibbs. “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 defenses, for risking, for persisting, for sacrificing and saving, the Ebola fighters are Time’s 2014 Person of the Year.”
The five featured workers are:
1. Dr. Jerry Brown, 46, medical director and surgeon in Monrovia, Liberia. Brown turned the chapel of his hospital in Monrovia into the country’s first Ebola treatment centre.
2. Salome Karwah, 26, caregiver at the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic in Monrovia. Karwah is an Ebola survivor who, after losing both of her parents to the virus, now counsels Ebola patients in Liberia.
3. Foday Gallah, 37, ambulance supervisor in Monrovia. Gallah contracted Ebola while trying to comfort a young child who was ill.
4. Ella Watson-Stryker, 34, health promoter with MSF. Watson-Stryker has been in West Africa fighting Ebola since March.
5. Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, physician with Samaritan’s Purse. Brantly became the first American to be infected with the virus while he was in charge of an Ebola treatment centre in Monrovia.