TIME ebola

Ebola-Stricken Families to Receive Cash Payments

Hawa Musa with her mother and children. Of 25 people living in the house, 17 have died from ebola, including her husband.
Hawa Musa (blue) with her mother and children. Musa used to rent rooms for income, but no one wants to rent her rooms anymore. She previously had 25 people living in her house, but 17 died of Ebola including her husband and a few of her children. She's taken in 10 more kids. Carly Learson—Carly Learson / UNDP

In 2015, the three Ebola-affected countries will start offering cash payments for families hit by Ebola, as well as survivors having trouble re-acclimating to society out of stigma for the disease.

Every aspect of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone’s societies have taken a hit from Ebola, and the disease has shocked what were once fragile but growing economies. Public spaces are now forbidden, so markets are empty, tourists are no longer traveling into the countries and international companies have largely pulled out, including large industries like mining. The World Bank estimates the aftershock of Ebola to already weakened economies will be “devastating.”

“We are seeing a backwards slide of development of about 10 years,” says Boaz Paldi, chief of media and advocacy at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). “The outlook is not good. We are fearful for these countries.” That’s why instead of waiting for caseloads to reach manageable numbers, the three countries, with the help of UNDP and other partners, are laying the groundwork now for rebuilding the damaged economies. One of the first major initiatives to be rolled out in the new year are cash transfers and payments to families who no longer have breadwinners and survivors out of work. Many women in the Ebola-affected countries have taken in orphaned children of their family members or neighbors, despite having no steady income.

Dudu Kromah's husband died recently from ebola. She is looking after ten children, many of them orphans including a 3-month-old baby.
Dudu Kromah’s husband died from Ebola. She is looking after ten children, many of them orphans including a 3-month-old baby. She has no income. Carly Learson—Carly Learson / UNDP

According to UNDP leaders, plans for the payment process are still being refined. Lists of names of affected families and survivors are being collected and coordinated for small pilot programs, starting early next year, to test the effectiveness of the payments in preparation for widespread efforts. UNDP has calculated that around $50 will keep a family of five going in the three countries with essential needs for one month, with some variations by country. The group is anticipating making monthly payments to 150-200,000 people in each of the countries.

Ultimately, the payment program may develop into a cash-for-work model, with payments in exchange for work rebuilding communities in an effort to inject cash into the local economy and enable people to earn a living.

Ideas for how to get youth involved are also being considered. In Sierra Leone, Ruby Sandhu-Rojon, the deputy director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, spoke to young people concerned that since residents can no longer go to their local markets, they are unable to buy the food they need. “So why not start a delivery company to have food delivered to the different communities? How can we provide the start-up capital for young people who want to initiative those types of activities?” says Sandhu-Rojon.

The three countries and the U.N., which launched the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) earlier this year, are also looking to the private sector. On Dec. 11 the U.N. held a U.N.-Business Collaboration for Global Ebola Response meeting as a way to get the private sector involved in both the response and recovery. A panel of high-level representatives from U.N. Missions in the affected countries, the U.S., U.K., and France put out a call for help from companies in areas major like logistics. Ultimately, the greatest plea was for companies to return to the countries and invest.

Sadly, all three countries were experiencing high growth rates before the start of Ebola, after coming out of conflicts like civil war. Sierra Leone had only recently launched its “Agenda for Prosperity,” a high-level initiative to become a middle-income country by 2035. High growth rates could largely be attributed to extractive industries like mining, which have now largely decreased their production or shut down, causing a government shortfall in revenue and massive loss of employment. Remaining national resources have been reallocated to the Ebola fight.

“It’s very disheartening, because all three of these countries were on their way up,” says Sandhu-Rojon.

The hope is cash payments will be a boost to help people get by. But increasingly more support and funding will be needed from the international community and private sector to get the countries back on their feet. Whether the countries will make it back to pre-Ebola growth may be a much greater, and longer battle.

TIME ebola

5 Million Kids Aren’t in School Because of Ebola

Schools closed in Sierra Leone after Ebola outbreak
A classroom of a school stands abandoned on Aug. 25, 2014 in Kenema, Sierra Leone. Schools closed and villages quarantined after dozens of its congregation died with Ebola symptoms. Mohammed Elshamy—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Children from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are still out of school. Here's what's being done

Public schools in Guinea have been closed since March. Schools in Sierra Leone and Liberia never opened after the summer holiday. All told, the children’s rights and emergency relief group UNICEF estimates that 5 million children ages 3 to 17 are out of school due to Ebola.

“This Ebola crisis has been predominantly seen as a health crisis but its implications go way beyond health,” says Sayo Aoki, an education specialist for UNICEF working in the affected countries. “It’s time we start looking at it from other perspectives, and education is part of that.”

Some schools were closed out of fear the disease could spread in large gatherings while others had no access to water, making handwashing impossible. But the longer a child stays out of school, the less likely it is he or she will return—which is why UNICEF is working closely with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health to come up with protocols necessary to implement in order to let children back into the classrooms. The draft—which calls for measures like Ebola screenings, hygiene requirements and a plan in the event a suspected case—is currently being reviewed by experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. and the World Health Organization.

MORE: TIME’s Person of the Year: Ebola Fighters

In the meantime, UNICEF and partner NGOs have trained out-of-work teachers to act as “social mobilizers,” going door to door to spread messages about how to identify Ebola and prevent its spread. UNICEF and partners are also using the radio programs to offer long-distance learning while kids are kept at home. “We are trying to make [the radio shows] simple and more interesting so children will get some learning,” says Aoki. “If they listen to it at a certain time of the day during the week, it gives them a routine they’ve lost from not going to school. It brings them a sense of normalcy, some sort of stability and hope.”

Stability has been largely destroyed for many children living in Ebola-affected countries. Many have seen family members, friends and neighbors get infected, and many have become orphans as well. Ebola has also changed social mores. “Nobody shakes hands in public,” says Aoki. “It has put a lot of stress on children. There’s no cuddling, no hugging, no kissing. The simple joys of life have been taken away.”

Even before Ebola, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia were economically troubled countries still emerging from conflict and civil war. Guinea and Liberia were in the process of increasing their school attendance numbers—Guinea was at 58% and Liberia was at 34%—and experts worry that Ebola has set progress back. School closures, including private schools, are also a bad economic indicator. Jeff Trudeau, the director of The American International School of Monrovia (AISM) told TIME in August that he lost more than half his expected students for the 2014 school year, many of whom were children of foreign families who moved to the region for jobs in Liberia’s burgeoning business sector. That school’s earliest possible start date is January and for others, there appear to be “moving” deadlines for reopening. Guinea is aiming for January while Liberia and Sierra Leone are hoping for March.

But all the countries will have to patiently wait until their caseloads are under control, since a premature opening may only add fuel to the fire.

TIME obituary

In Memoriam: Michel du Cille (1956 – 2014)

He worked in images, but his passion was reality

In 1987, photographer Michel du Cille immersed himself in the lives of Miami crack addicts inside a dangerous apartment complex known to its residents as the Graveyard. Working alongside the tough and talented young reporter Lynne Duke, du Cille produced a definitive document of the social and human tragedy that was the crack epidemic. Michel’s work for the Miami Herald’s Tropic magazine won the Pulitzer Prize—one of three Pulitzers honoring this important and influential photojournalist.

His editor on the piece, Gene Weingarten, was struck by the fact that Michel went to work without a camera. For weeks, he haunted the Graveyard with empty hands, learning to see human beings before making them his subjects. Knowing them meant revealing himself. “I want them to get to know me as a person,” Michel said. “First comes trust, then the work.”

Du Cille died this week as he lived, taking the long, honest path. He despised shortcuts. At 58, he was hiking miles of remote West African trail in pursuit of the Ebola epidemic for the Washington Post. Evidently, he suffered a heart attack.

A great news photograph—and Michel du Cille made many of them—reveals its subject in a way that writing can never match. What may be less obvious is that a great photograph also reveals the photographer. Writers can sketch scenes based on interviews; spin tales from notes and transcripts. The photographer must be present at the critical moment; there can be no substitute. This almost always means hours, days and weeks of preparation before the moment comes.

I was honored to work with Michel for many years at the Herald and the Post, and I remember him as a journalist of unrelenting integrity. He spoke in a soft voice with the faintest seasoning of his native Jamaica, and his was the still, soft voice of conscience. He demanded the best from himself and expected nothing less from the rest of us.

Together with the brilliant and hilarious editor Joe Elbert, du Cille built the Post’s photography department into one of the most distinguished in newspaper history. They were yin and yang, boisterous Joe and quiet Michel, but they prided themselves on their shared commitment to utter candor. They critiqued portfolios like Marine drill instructors, breaking the photographers down before rebuilding them in stronger form.

Wounded soldiers during a morning formation. Walter Reed Medical Center. 2007. Michel du Cille—The Washington Post/Getty Images

When Michel stepped down from senior newsroom management to resume life as “a shooter,” he immediately reminded us that he could walk the walk. His deeply humane work documenting the neglect of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center perfectly complemented the wrenching investigation by writers Anne Hull and Dana Priest, and earned the Pulitzer gold medal in 2008.

That he eagerly volunteered to go into combat in Afghanistan after cancer treatment and a pair of knee replacements tells you a lot of what you need to know about Michelangelo Everard du Cille. That he wrote with searing openness about the challenge of honoring the dignity of Ebola patients while documenting their wretched suffering tells you the rest. He worked in images, but his passion was reality. No picture could be worthy unless it was honest.

Chip Somodevilla of Getty Images says that he leans daily on a lesson he learned from du Cille. “He said to always look at the subject—the action—from all angles. He said to literally walk a circle around your subject to see it from a different angle, and wait for the surprises to come. That is very sound and sage advice from a man who never stopped telling stories that surprised, touched and moved us all.”

TIME ebola

U.N.: Ebola Outbreak Will Take Several More Months to Contain

Liberia Ebola Missed Goals
Health workers wearing Ebola protective gear spray the shrouded body of a suspected Ebola victim with disinfectant at an Ebola treatment center at Tubmanburg, on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, on Nov. 28, 2014 Abbas Dulleh—AP

The U.N. goal of containing 100% of Ebola cases by Jan. 1 will not be met

The U.N.’s special envoy on Ebola said Thursday that it would be several months before the outbreak in West Africa is under control.

Dr. David Nabarro said international governments as well as local communities had taken a “massive shift” in responding to the crisis over the past four month, the Associated Press reports.

However, he noted that more needed to be done to contain the spread of the disease in western Sierra Leone and northern Mali.

“It’s going to take, I’m afraid, several more months before we can truly declare that the outbreak is coming under control,” Nabarro said.

The World Health Organization aimed to have 100% of cases isolated by Jan. 1, but acknowledges that previous targets have not been met.


TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Dec. 11, 2014

A compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Evgenia Arbugaeva‘s photographs of a weather man living in extreme solitude in northern Russia. The photographs follow Vyacheslav Korotki, a Polyarniki – a meteorologist specializing in the polar north, who mans a remote Arctic outpost in Khodovarikha, where he keeps track of the temperatures, snowfall and wind. The closest town to Khodovarikha is an hour away — by helicopter — and visitors are rare with supplies brought in only once a year. From the outside, Korotki’s existence appears to be a lonely one, but as Arbugaeva explains in her accompanying text, she found him to be anything but. This man is right where he wants to be. The pictures are stunning and the viewers can almost feel the Arctic cold. It’s truly extraordinary work.

Evgenia Arbugaeva: Weather Man (The New Yorker)

Larry Towell: Afghanistan (The New York Times Lens) Another look at the Magnum photographer’s Afghanistan work which was recently published as book.

How John Moore Covered the Ebola Outbreak (TIME LightBox) The Getty photographer talks about his assignment covering Ebola in Liberia.

China’s wild west: photographing a vanishing way of life (The Guardian) For her book Wild Pigeon, Carolyn Drake spent seven years exploring China’s Xinjiang and the Uyghurs living there. The work is collaborative as Drake asked the locals to draw on, reassemble and play with her photographs. The work was also published on TIME LightBox in November.

Sim Chi Yin – A Singaporean Abroad (Channel NewsAsia) A TV program on photographer Sim Chi Yin and her long term projects.

TIME Behind the Photos

How John Moore Covered the Ebola Outbreak

Getty Images photographer John Moore was covering the Ebola outbreak in Liberia from the onset

In the early months of an Ebola epidemic that has claimed more than 6,000 lives in West Africa, Getty Images photographer John Moore was on the frontline in Liberia.

At that time, untrained medical workers fell victim to the virus, with hospitals and clinics unable to handle the rising number of cases. Moore’s harrowing images, published on TIME LightBox in August, crystallized these challenges. “I went relatively early on to cover the Liberia outbreak,” he says. “And I hope that my work had at least some small influence on mobilizing aid, [helping to] instill a sense of urgency into the international community.”

Moore spent a total of four weeks on the story, and he advised several other photographers on the crucial and life-saving procedures one has to carefully follow to prevent infection. “I was very happy to see other news organizations go to West Africa afterwards and expand the coverage,” says Moore. “I believe that with a humanitarian crisis like this, more media is better. In the case of Liberia, there were actually fewer media there than there would normally be on such a large story. Perhaps fear had something to do with that.”

With the virus posing an invisible risk, many news organizations have been reticent to send journalists and photographers to cover the outbreak. But, says Moore, while the epidemic has “the appearance of being too dangerous, in reality, I believe it was less dangerous than some of the other places I’ve been and worked consistently over the years like Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Today, the situation has improved, with scientists and healthcare workers fighting back—and the Ebola Fighters were selected as TIME’s Person of the Year. But the fight is far from over, as recent work from photographers Daniel Berehulak, Samuel Aranda and Pete Muller, among many others, can attest.

Moore plans on returning, as he tells TIME in an exclusive video interview: “I don’t know yet the timing of my return, but I’ll go back to West Africa.”

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent. Paul Moakley, TIME’s Deputy Director of Photography, produced this video essay.

TIME Behind the Photos

Photographing TIME’s Person of the Year in Africa, Europe and the U.S.

Sworn to secrecy, photographers Jackie Nickerson and Bryan Schutmaat were on the assignment of a lifetime when TIME asked them to photograph the 2014 Person of the Year -- the Ebola Fighters

“To have an African doctor, who grew up in a shantytown in probably one of the most disadvantaged countries in the world, on the cover of TIME magazine’s Person of the Year is the right thing to do,” says Jackie Nickerson, the fine-art photographer who shot the cover of TIME’s Person of the Year.

This year, TIME chose to highlight the incredible work Ebola fighters are doing to bring to a stop an epidemic that has killed more than 6,000 people. TIME commissioned Nickerson and U.S. photographer Bryan Schutmaat to shoot more than 20 portraits in 12 locations around the world—from London to Geneva, Boston to Dallas, and all the way to Monrovia, Liberia.

“I was working on a job in Paris when Kira Pollack and Paul Moakley [the director and deputy director of photography at TIME] called me,” says Nickerson. “They told me they had this assignment for me and asked if I could go to Monrovia. I immediately knew this was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bear witness to this moment in history. There was no doubt in my mind that it was something I wanted to do.”

Nickerson was surprised. “I had actually never worked for TIME before,” she says. “I had no idea what the commission process was, so this call came out of the blue.”

Meanwhile, Schutmaat was in Amsterdam attending World Press Photo’s Joop Swart Masterclass when he received his phone call. “My schedule was very busy, and I thought [being in Europe wouldn’t work], but photo editor Natalie Matutschovsky, who’s been championing my work at TIME, just said: ‘That’s good, because two of the subjects we need you to shoot are in Europe already.’” The following week, he was on a flight to Geneva.

Both photographers were selected for their strong sense of aesthetics, which come from their fine-art backgrounds. “They are celebrated artists,” says Pollack. “There is a heartbeat to Nickerson’s portraits that lent itself to just the right mood for this project. She’s spent a considerable amount of time working throughout Africa. She is agile and informed on how to photograph in the harsh African light, and her portraits are honest and beautiful. Schutmaat’s studied portraits have an almost painterly quality. There is something very telling about capturing a body posture or a simple gesture.”

For weeks, TIME had been preparing for Nickerson’s assignment. “We talked to NGO workers, journalists and photographers who had been in the field before we decided to go ahead do this,” says Moakley. “We talked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and we packed everything we needed—including Personal Protective Equipment suits for all of us.”

TIME’s Africa Bureau Chief Aryn Baker, who spent the summer covering the Ebola epidemic, met Nickerson and Moakley in Monrovia. “Aryn did a lot of the work ahead of time as well,” says Nickerson. “With Paul, she had selected the sitters, so we had a very good idea of who we were going to shoot, so that made things incredibly easy for me.”

Few people would know Dr. Jerry Brown’s name. The Liberian doctor, who is featured on the first of five covers shot for TIME’s Person of the Year issue, opened his country’s first Ebola treatment center in early 2014, at a time when many of his colleagues failed to react to the growing epidemic. “There was a kind of gravity to the way Dr. Brown and his staff were working,” says Nickerson. “When we met [him], we had the idea to do something very simple against a plain color, something of a more formal portrait. And then, he invited us to go into the reception area where he gets dressed. It was a very simple, bare room. It had a single light bulb, and I just thought it captured the atmosphere and gravity of what they were doing.”

The photograph is not a staged shot: It’s a portrait that was caught in the middle of Brown’s regular dressing procedure.

Over four days, Nickerson, Moakley and Baker witnessed the commitment of dozens of health workers and body-retrieval teams. “Sometimes, we would be waiting to get access to someone and we’d be chatting to other people with incredible stories,” says the photographer. “It just never stopped. Their stories really touch you—the self-sacrifices that people are making. They are doing such a brilliant job.”

In the U.S., meanwhile, Schutmaat was meeting with Dr. Kent Brantly. The 33-year-old physician with Samaritan’s Purse was the first American citizen to be diagnosed with Ebola while working in Monrovia. “Kent was doing a lot of hard, selfless work to help people out,” says Schutmaat.“I met him at his church in Fort Worth, Texas. TIME’s photo editors and I felt that since he was a man of faith and since he was guided by that faith, it would be good to photograph him in there.”

Schutmaat had no idea then that it would be featured as part of the magazine’s Person of the Year franchise. “I just thought I was doing a big story on Ebola that would end up somewhere inside the magazine,” he says. “I didn’t think it would be such a huge deal.”

Nickerson was similarly in the dark: “Kira Pollack had said it could be an important story, and I knew that Person of the Year happened around this time of the year, but I didn’t dare to hope because I think there had always been people of status on the cover, and I couldn’t believe it was going to be a non-famous, African doctor on the cover.”

It was only when TIME’s photo editors ordered the final, high-resolution images that both photographers found out the real purpose of their work. “It’s probably the biggest privilege of my professional career,” says Nickerson. “There’s no question about it. Doing this whole story was a privilege.”

“I’m honored,” adds Schutmaat. “And to know that the editors at TIME would think that my photos would stand up next to Nickerson’s is pretty awesome.” A sentiment Nickerson reciprocates. “Bryan’s a great photographer. I love his work. I’m really happy to be sharing this story with him.”

Jackie Nickerson is a fine-art photographer based in Dublin, Ireland. She is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery. TIME last featured her work, Terrain, on LightBox.

Bryan Schutmaat is a Austin-based photographer. He is represented by Sasha Wolf Gallery.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent. Paul Moakley, TIME’s deputy director of photography, and Natalie Matutschovsky, a senior photo editor at TIME, edited this photo essay.

TIME Behind the Photos

Behind the Scenes of TIME’s Person of the Year Photoshoot in Liberia

When most of America was celebrating Thanksgiving, TIME's Deputy Director of Photography Paul Moakley was in Monrovia, Liberia, with photographer Jackie Nickerson

On Thursday, Nov. 20, after months of research, debate and deliberation over how to cover the Ebola outbreak in western Africa, I received the green light to go to Liberia with photographer Jackie Nickerson. I stayed up late writing letters to the Liberian consulates and e-mails to set our plans. We both had less than 24 hours to get visas and equipment. I was in New York and Jackie was in Paris for a shoot.

I’ve been an admirer of Jackie’s work since she released her book Faith in 2007, and I have always wanted to collaborate with her. Much of Jackie’s fine-art work has taken her all over Africa from Congo and Malawi to Mozambique and Zimbabwe, where she lived for many years on a farm. In her portraiture, Jackie maintains a gentle distance from her subjects that allows her to capture something intimate, heroic and modern. What’s most evident in the work is a sense of strength and optimism that she finds in the people she depicts. Through those qualities, she manages to tell a story about each person she photographs. Her subtle way of seeing individuals became a template for a series of portraits about the people on the front lines fighting the deadly Ebola virus.

On Friday, I woke up early so I’d be the first person at the Liberian consulate. It was totally empty and I sensed they were surprised that someone wanted to apply for a visa. I was afraid they would deny it to me if I said that I was a journalist looking to cover Ebola. And, of course that was the first question the administrator asked me. I said, “Yes.” After a few tense minutes of her looking at my passport and discussing the matter on the phone, she matter-of-factly handed me a receipt for a visa and told me to pick it up in three hours. The next day, I was at the airport.

In a strange way, going to Liberia felt like something I was destined to do. In 2008, I’d curated Tim Hetherington’s first show in New York of his photographs of the Liberian Civil War. He had taught me everything I knew about it. The West African country was fractured first by a war and now by a deadly disease that has killed thousands of people and altered every aspect of life there.

We landed in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, stepping off the plane and into the heat and the dense humid air. In the darkness, I saw a group of airport workers in masks and gloves who led us to a bus. My nerves began to wind up. We rode the shuttle to the arrivals entrance with military personnel and healthcare workers. As we got off the bus, we were instructed to wash our hands with chlorine solution and had our temperatures taken for the first time–a ritual that we would repeat countless times over our stay.

When we walked out of the airport, I saw Aryn Baker, TIME’s Africa Bureau Chief. “I would hug you but that’s not something we do in public here,” Aryn said. She introduced us to our driver and fixer Frank, who’s worked with other journalists and photographers such as John Moore.

During the ride, the highway’s darkness was broken up by small towns, silhouettes of people walking next to the road and billboards advertising how to spot the signs of Ebola. We arrived at the hotel where we, once again, had to wash our hands with chlorine and our temperatures taken. I started to feel uneasy about everything I touched.

The next morning, we went out to photograph a member of the burial teams. Each day, he and men like him go out in teams to clear out dead bodies from homes and hospitals. Incredibly not one of these men, who were trained very quickly, has ever been infected. We began shooting portraits in the middle of a chaotic scene, as these men got ready to work. They were loading trucks with personal protective equipment and sprayer pumps of bleach.

Photographer Jackie Nickerson photographs nurse Salome Karwah in Monrovia, Liberia on Nov. 26, 2014 Paul Moakley

One man I met, named Morris Kanneh, 45, was one of the oldest members of the team. When I asked why he agreed to do this work, he said, “This is my home. My brothers are just dying from this disease. I have to work for my country.”

Most of the men spoke with pride, showing no fear of what they were doing. They were motivated, knowing that they were doing the most dangerous and necessary job in their country. We decided to photograph as many of them as we could in the time we had; this moment set the breakneck pace of the entire trip.

Each day we drove through the city from location to location. Aryn found an incredible cross-section of people, mostly Liberians. They have a deep love for the country and its people, who are fighting to stay alive.

We met Dr. Philip Ireland. He survived the disease and wanted nothing more than to start working again. We spoke with nurses, ambulance drivers, educators, government workers and a few foreigners who all made a decision at some point this year that they couldn’t just sit on the sidelines while Liberia lost its grip on the outbreak, its hospitals overflowing and its people dying in the streets or in holding centers that couldn’t offer any help.


TIME’s Africa Bureau Chief Aryn Baker (right) in Monrovia, Liberia Jackie Nickerson for TIME

On the second day of shooting, we waited for Dr. Jerry Brown, 46, the medical director and general surgeon at the Eternal Love Winning Africa Hospital in Monrovia. We ended up seeing a burial team as it prepared to bring out the dead from ELWA hospital. They got dressed on the road outside, pulled their truck up to the front gate and disappeared into the hospital only to return carrying a stretcher with a white body bag on it. They lifted it into the truck and unloaded it. We heard the dull thump of the bag hitting the flatbed. They did this three times; one of the bags looked like it was holding a child. There would be no funeral for these people, no loved ones sharing remembrances, just a mass cremation far away from the city that night.

All I could think about was how no family members were present to witness this final moment. All I could do was hold my head down in respect.

It was heartbreaking–an unreal way to imagine the end of a life. I walked back towards the car and saw a member of the burial team, now out of his protective gear, pacing in the field alone, away from the rest of his crew who waited in the car to go to the next pick up.

The next day we spent time with Brown. You could see the pressure he was under all day. His phone rang constantly, yet he was thoughtful and calm when he spoke. To relieve some of the stigma faced by Ebola survivors, Dr. Brown has turned their departure from the hospital into a kind of ceremony. He gives each person a certificate that looks like a diploma–an actual clean bill of health. I watched him fill out the certificates with a great sense of pride, his nursing staff surrounding him.

TIME’s Deputy Director of Photography Paul Moakley (right) and TIME’s Africa Bureau Chief Aryn Baker in Monrovia, Liberia Jackie Nickerson for TIME

We watched Brown get dressed in protective gear to do his rounds inside the Ebola hospital. He put on every layer of plastic with precision and Jackie recorded the process. Through her photographs, you can see in Brown’s eyes just how tired he is, you can see the weight of every decision he has to make each day.

That day happened to be Thanksgiving. All of these doctors, nurses and janitors showed such life while facing a deadly disease. They were joyous in what they were doing, even as a burial team arrived almost every day to pick up victims who did not survive. They were doing everything in their power to help.

The news around the world was turbulent and dark this year. And yet these pictures and stories inspire and offer hope. “If you have the ability to do something, which every single person does. You have to do it,” Katie Meyler, the founder of More Than Me, a school for vulnerable girls from the West Point slum of Monrovia, told us. “There’s not really a choice. And maybe not everyone’s gonna get on an airplane for whatever reason to come to Liberia, but everyone can do something from right where they are.”

We photographed many people: this honor is meant equally for the countless others in Liberia and around the world in Sierra Leone, Guinea and any place where people are risking their lives to fight Ebola. For their extraordinary bravery TIME honors all the Ebola fighters.

Paul Moakley is TIME’s Deputy Director of Photography.

TIME ebola

Scenes From Monrovia, Liberia

A look inside Eternal Love Winning Africa (ELWA), the nondenominational Christian mission which opened the first Ebola treatment unit in Monrovia, Liberia at the onset of the Ebola outbreak.

TIME ebola

Sierra Leone Has Overtaken Liberia in Ebola

A burial team extracts the body of Isatu Sesay, 16, an Ebola victim, from her home in Kissi Town, Sierra Leone.
A burial team extracts the body of Isatu Sesay, 16, an Ebola victim, from her home in Kissi Town, Sierra Leone, Nov. 22, 2014. Daniel Berehulak—The New York Times/Redux

It now has more cases than anywhere in the world

Sierra Leone has the highest number of Ebola cases of any country, according to the most recent World Health Organization statistics.

Sierra Leone has seen 7,780 cases of Ebola, more than the 7,719 cases in Liberia, WHO figures published on Monday show. Some 17,800 people have fallen ill with virus in those two countries and in Guinea, 6,187 of whom have died.

In the WHO’s latest situation report, published last week, the group said its goal of safely burying 70 % of Ebola victims and isolating 70 % of Ebola patients had been met in “most districts” of the three hardest-hit West African countries. The WHO cited Liberia as a bright point in the global effort to contain the disease, reporting that case incidence was “stable or declining” in the struggling nation, where 3,177 people have died from the disease.

Yet the WHO said that transmission of the virus was still “intense” in Sierra Leone, which at the beginning of the month reported more than 500 new cases over a period of just days.

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