Ten years ago, in November 2006, Al Jazeera English was launched. To mark that anniversary, we have created REWIND, which updates some of the channel’s most memorable and award-winning documentaries of the past decade. We find out what happened to some of the characters in those films and ask how the stories have developed in the years since our cameras left.
On a journey to the heart of the Ebola epidemic in 2014, award-winning journalist Sorious Samura followed Liberia’s poorly paid and ill-equipped health workers as they risked their lives to treat the infected and recover the bodies of the dead.
Working alongside Liberian investigative reporter Mae Azango and producer Clive Patterson, Sorious filmed with a Red Cross body-collection team travelling around Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, picking up the contagious corpses of the deceased. Several of their workers paid with their lives, but the work was vital in keeping the spread of infection under control.
Sorious also encountered deep anger among Liberian health workers. Infuriated by their pay and conditions, they were suspicious that government corruption was preventing the distribution of money donated by the international community.
This film offers an insight into what it is like to live in a society gripped by dread of contagion and mistrust of the authorities, a place where no one shakes hands any more, where a mother will think twice before picking up a sick child.
But it also shows how ordinary people made the most extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of their community – and indeed the rest of us.
Liberian nurse Salome Karwah was one of the health workers featured in the film. A symbol of strength and humanity, she used her experience to help others after surviving Ebola herself.
But last month, Karwah died in Monrovia after giving birth to a son because health workers were reluctant to treat an Ebola survivor once complications developed. Her husband blames the stigma attached to the deadly virus for her death.
Sorious Samura tells REWIND that her death could have been prevented through proper education.
“This is the time that I would love the WHO [World Health Organization] to ask questions, to hold the government to account, to ask [Liberian president Ellen] Johnson Sirleaf, what have you done to educate the Ministry of Health? … I think now we have left too early,” he says.