Salome Karwah holding a 10-month-old baby whose parents were being reated for Ebola in Monrovia, Liberia (Photo: NPR/John Poole)
March 6, 2017 – Salome Karwah, a Liberian woman who survived Ebola and dedicated the rest of her life to fighting the disease, recently died from childbirth complications after hospital staff refused to help her because of stigmatization that still surrounds the disease. Karwah, who repeatedly tested negative for Ebola herself, was also named a TIME Person of the Year for her dedication to fighting the disease and helping her own community heal. Her tragic death is a reminder of the importance of the ongoing work needed in public education and awareness on disease management, and maternal health.
For Amref Health Africa, we know how critical strengthening the capacity of local health workers has been in fighting the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Since 2014, we have trained local health workers to identify potential cases of Ebola and ensure that those patients receive the care they need. With generous support from the Paul G. Allen Ebola Program and an anonymous donor, Amref Health Africa has worked with the Guinean government and our partners to bring the number of Ebola cases to zero and ensure its complete eradication. So far, we have trained over 540 members of community-based organizations in Guinea to teach their friends, families and neighbors about Ebola and what they can do themselves to stop the spread of the virus.
Salome Karwah on the cover of Time Magazine in 2014 – which named her and other health workers as their Person of the Year. (Photo: Time Magazine)
While the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the end of the Ebola epidemic in Guinea in late December 2015, Karwah’s tragic story is a reminder of the need for ongoing case-finding, de-stigmatization and community support. In the long-run, Amref Health Africa is committed to repairing trust within communities and improving the local health system so that it can serve all peoples’ health needs beyond this devastating epidemic.
Maternal health needs particular attention, as witnessed, when it comes to operating within a disease or epidemic-affected region. This is why a core part of Amref Health Africa’s programming focuses on training midwives to deliver the most essential health services. Apart from their crucial job at delivery, midwives also monitor pregnant women throughout their term, and treat malaria and HIV, including preventing mother-to-child transmission. They provide educational services, such as breastfeeding counsel, family planning, and helping women to deliver at a health facility with a midwife or skilled attendant. To date, we have trained over 9,000 midwives – a trained midwife can assist at least 500 women during childbirth per year.
We pay tribute to Salome Karwah and all women like her who overcome adversity, give back to their communities, and advocate for equal access to health for all.