A modern superhero: Remember Salome Karwah:
Salome Karwah lost so much when the West African Ebola epidemic devastated her town in August 2014. It took the lives of 11,310 people, including her parents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and a niece. Against all odds, Salome, her sister, and her fiancé survived.
But even while stricken with the disease, Salome Karwah cared for those around her. Said her sister, Josephine, "I was worried about her, because I was pregnant at the time. There were nine other pregnant women in the unit and we watched all of them die. Salome's entire focus was on me, that at any time I would die."
Not only did she and her sister survive, but once recovered, Salome returned to the hospital where she had been treated to help Doctors Without Borders care for other victims of the disease. With empathy and immunity, she brought an understanding compassion to her work. This dedication to victims of the terrible disease, who were stigmatized and neglected by others, earned her the title of TIME Magazine’s 2014 Person of the Year as one of the Ebola Fighters.
Wrote TIME, “Karwah used to joke that survivors had “super powers” — because after overcoming the disease they were forever immune from it. Like any superhero, she often quipped, it was her moral duty to use those powers for the betterment of humankind.”
These superpowers could not save her from falling victim to the plight of poverty.
On Feb. 21, 2017, Salome Karwah died following childbirth. Suffering from preeclampsia (a.k.a. high blood pressure in pregnancy), Karwah had an emergency C-section during the birth of her fourth child. She was sent home early—much too early for a C-section patient—and passed away shortly after following complications.
Death from childbirth, or maternal mortality, is all too common, killing approximately 300,000 women every year.
“Poverty is sexist,” wrote Bill and Melinda Gates in their 2017 annual letter. And nowhere is this more true than in women’s healthcare. Death in childbirth is preventable. Preeclampsia is the most common complication to occur during pregnancy and is preventable for women with access to quality prenatal care, family planning, and support during labor and delivery. Yet Salome Karwah did not have access to the quality care she gave to others.
Maternal mortality rates have been on the decline in nearly every country. However, a stark disparity remains between the developed world, where the average rate is 12 deaths per 100,000 live births, and 239 deaths per 100,000 live births in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization, “in all of these cases unavailable, inaccessible, unaffordable, or poor quality care is fundamentally responsible.”
Today we’re asking you to remember and share Salome Karwah’s contribution to the world. As we close out Black History Month and kick off Women’s History Month, we have a responsibility to Salome and so many women like her to increase our awareness of these unnecessary deaths. Awareness and knowledge are the first steps in combating the devastating toll of poverty.
March as Women’s History Month and February as Black History Month should serve as reminders that searching for and sharing the histories of oppressed people should be a year-round endeavor, not just an activity during one of the twelve months.
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