My brother David Otieno might not be famous, but he and other health professionals fought and defeated Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“I hardly celebrate my friends or close family members in my column, but in this it is hard to ignore my sibling’s sacrifice in the war against the Ebola virus, which ravaged parts of West Africa and crippled healthcare systems.
“Ebola had killed 11,314 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia by November 1, 2014, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). We can all recall that the three countries experienced the most complex and largest Ebola outbreak in history. Sierra Leone recorded 3,9955 deaths, Liberia 4,808, Guinea 2,536 and Nigeria 8.
“There are many unsung heroes out there who worked round the clock to ensure the Ebola war was won. And on Saturday when the WHO declared Sierra Leone Ebola-free, I let out a heavy sigh of relief. To the shock of family and friends, my brother had left his well-paying job when the Ebola virus was spreading across West Africa. He headed to that direction to aid in the fight. He went there before a batch of other Kenyan health professionals followed suit.
“We prayed hoping that he would be safe since the deadly disease did not discriminate, with many medics getting infected too. In fact, the medics and nurses were among the first to die when Ebola struck. It killed the old and young alike. My brother’s first stop was Liberia where he and other health professionals battled Ebola until it was declared free of the deadly virus.
“We were all very happy when the announcement was made and were hoping to see him back home at last. But we were a bit disappointed he only came for a week’s visit then headed back to the neighbouring Sierra Leone. He would occasionally travel to other West African nations where the disease threatened to spread to help the governments come up with health strategies to counter it.
“Service to God
“So when he finally said he was would stay in Sierra Leone where Ebola was proving stubborn until the battle was won, I crossed my fingers hoping for the best since he had a strong will and we had failed to convince him to return home to “safety”. To him, what he was doing was a service to God and mankind and there was no turning back.
“At one point, we talked on phone and he said: “Janet, this thing is real, Ebola is real, at this point, a burial team is making its way to Waterloo cemetery with body bags on a truck. Just pray for my children and for me so that I can be safe till this war against the deadly disease is won”.
“So yesterday, when I saw a clip of my brother, David, at the ceremony to declare Kanema District in eastern Sierra Leone Ebola-free, I was elated. He might not be famous since he is media-shy, but nevertheless he has made Kenya proud and the rest of Africa as well. Of course, the Ebola war was a joint effort, but I have never forgotten how determined David was that this war had to be won.
“It is a victory worth celebrating with all the other health professionals involved.
“I hope Sierra Leone and other West African countries will strengthen their health systems to help rebuild confidence of the citizens that no disease is a death sentence just as these heroes have shown.
“You can now see that I had a valid reason to honour my brother plus other the health professionals for their courage and sacrifice in the war against Ebola in West Africa.
SOURCE: AFRICA REVIEW