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Liberia's Ebola hero and 2014 TIME Person of the Year dies in childbirth

Liberia's Ebola hero and 2014 TIME Person of the Year dies in childbirth

Liberia

The West African country of Liberia is mourning the death of its biggest Ebola fighter, Salome Karwah.

The BBC reporter in the country, Jonathan Paye-Layleh, reported on Tuesday that Salome died a forthnight ago but news of her death due to childbirth had just come out. She left behind four children including the newborn.

She was named Time magazine’s Person of The Year in 2014 for being at the forefront of the fight against Ebola. She contracted the deadly virus but recovered and then became a nurse who helped treat other sufferers.

Sitting and crying won’t help me. So it’s better I go and work. The more I interact with people, the more I will forget about my sad story. So I decided to make myself very much busy to help others survive.

She watched her parents die from the virus. But a distraught Salome joined the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) team in the country as a volunteer nurse to help fight Ebola.

“The first day I came here for an interview, I saw people carrying bodies. I started crying. I told my friend, ‘I can’t make it.”

But when I went the next day I said, “Sitting and crying won’t help me. So it’s better I go and work. The more I interact with people, the more I will forget about my sad story. So I decided to make myself very much busy to help others survive,” TIME magazine quoted her as saying.

Confirmation of death

The then-head of the Ebola fight, Tolbert Nyenswah, confirmed news of her demise. Tolbert who is currently the head of the country’s newly established National Public Health Institute said it was unfortunate that a person who have survived Ebola should die from childbirth in a major hospital.

‘‘Normally if a Caesarean section is conducted, the person is supposed to stay in the hospital for seven days and monitored to see whether there are complications.

‘‘But to my understanding, that protocol was breached; she spent less than that in the hospital and was discharged and when she was facing complications her husband took her back to the hospital for further care,’‘ he said.

TIME awarded her along with four others:

  • Foday Gallah, 37, ambulance supervisor and Ebola survivor, Monrovia, Liberia
  • Ella Watson-Stryker, 34, MSF health promoter
  • Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, physician with Samaritan’s Purse
  • Dr. Jerry Brown, 46, medical director at the Eternal Love Winning Africa Hospital, Monrovia, Liberia

The impact of Ebola on Liberia

Despite a devastating Ebola outbreak in 2014 that claimed more than 4,000 Liberian lives, crippled the economy, and set the country back years in development terms, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has previously said the country is clawing back some successes.

The Ebola epidemic hit West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, killing lots of people and resulting in a shutdown of most communities. The virus is believed to have killed over 11,300 people in West Africa.

In the middle of last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an end to active transmissions of the deadly virus in Liberia – the fourth time since the disease outbreak.

WHO said the affected countries remained at high risk of additional outbreaks of Ebola. It said flare-ups are likely to be independent of the original outbreak, and are likely the result of the virus persisting in survivors even after recovery.

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