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27th August 2015

It’s time to celebrate the silent heroes of the Ebola outbreak

Now that the Ebola pandemic has come to a close, we count the costs, assign the responsibilities and define the lessons to be learnt. MedTech can go a long way, but without the right people, education and training, the battle would simply have been unwinnable.

The ONE blog has done a great job at uncovering them and today it’s our turn to thank the silent heroes in the fight against Ebola: The ones who didn’t back out, the ones who took a leap of faith in themselves and in humanity, the ones who did what they were afraid to do.

There are millions of stories that we should tell, from the nurses to the survivors, from the community workers to the government officials and the aid volunteers, but we hope that these five anecdotes can represent some of the unseen, hidden braveries and collect our big, resounding thank you.

This is Karlia Bonarwolo, one of the first Ebola victims and one of the survivors. Granted the gift of life, he set up the Ebola Survivors Association of Liberia to lobby for universal health insurance and for better access to drugs and to vital medical material.

Next is Fatmata, a mother of two. With the start of the Ebola crisis, she volunteered as a burial worker with Medecins Sans Frontieres. With some training from the organization, she was able to ensure the safe and quick burial of the dead to avoid further contagion.

And then there is Leslie, the artist who filled the streets with posters and murals to educate the largely illiterate people of Liberia to know the symptoms of Ebola.

Who knew that a paint brush could be as powerful as a scalpel?

That giant smile belongs to Kou Gbaintor-Johnson, the Head of the People United Community in the township of Monrovia.

With a bright mind for social organization and the support of local NGOs, she set up an awareness and isolation centre, funded by the community at the cost of 40 cents per day.  Her preventive efforts meant that only two cases and one death occurred in Monrovia. 

Last but not least is Alimamy, who put his university career on hold in order to join the staff of his local hospital on the cleaning team.

Ensuring hygiene while preventing contagion is not an easy task, yet Alimamy overcame his fears and the stigma around the disease in order help in the Ebola fight.

His brush and broom were worth tens of boxes of medical devices.

This is part four of five in our series “From catchphrase to action” where we profile people and organisations moving beyond talk to find concrete solutions to global health issues.

With many thanks to ONERestless Development, Blair Glencorse and Accountability Lab for the stories, words and pictures that inspired this post.