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September 11, 2014 - Staff and children from SOS Children's Villages in Liberia are mourning the loss of SOS mother Pannah Saywrayne, who worked at the SOS Children’s Village in Juah Town. She died from the Ebola virus on the 28th of August.
‘Mama Pannah,’ as she was affectionately known, had traveled from Juah Town to Liberia’s capital of Monrovia to help care for her adult biological daughter. It is believed that Mama Pannah contracted Ebola from her biological daughter, who did not realize at the time that she had the virus. Both mother and daughter died from Ebola.
“It was a shock for us," said George Kordahi, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages in Liberia. “We are devastated by this news and offer our condolences to her extended family and others who were close to her.”
Kordahi emphasized that Mama Pannah did not return to her SOS Village after catching the virus.
"Since Pannah Saywrayne did not return to the Children's Village in Juah Town after visiting her biological daughter, we can rule out the possibility of an infection of our children," assured Kordahi.
Nevertheless, as a precautionary measure, all houses in the SOS Children’s Villages in Juah Town and Monrovia were professionally disinfected by a team from the SOS Medical Center.
Mama Pannah was the first SOS staff member to contract the virus in any country affected by the current Ebola outbreak. SOS Children's Villages in Liberia employs approximately 250 staff, including 70 in the SOS Medical Center which is one of the largest hospitals in Monrovia.
Because she planned to retire in February 2015, an SOS aunt was already preparing to take her place as SOS mother to the children in her care.
The village director of SOS Children’s Village Juah Town is a trained counselor and is working with the children Mama Pannah cared for to support their grieving process after this sudden loss.
Our children are safe
"The Children's Villages in Liberia are safely protected from the virus," said Kordahi. For months movement outside the SOS Children’s Villages in Liberia has been restricted, and anyone coming or going must thoroughly wash and disinfect themselves.
Since the outbreak began, SOS children have been allowed to play only within the walls of their Villages, which have been equipped with extra hand-washing stations. "They were looking forward to the start of school to meet their friends again. Instead, they are now facing an indefinite waiting period, during which they may not leave the SOS Children's Village," Kordahi reported.
Like all schools in Liberia, SOS Children’s Villages’ schools and kindergartens closed indefinitely some weeks ago to protect the children and reduce the chance of infection. “We are relying on SOS mothers to fill the gap as best as they possibly can,” Kordahi said, adding that SOS Children’s Villages is providing school materials within the family homes until the students are able to return to school.
SOS Medical Center supports community 24/7
SOS Medical Center staff members in protective gear.
Meanwhile, the SOS Medical Center in Monrovia is operating around the clock, at full capacity. It is the only medical clinic in Monrovia that is operating 24 hours a day. Many of Liberia’s public hospitals have been forced to close because doctors and staff were either infected with Ebola or stopped working out of fear of contagion. "Our clinic accepts patients around the clock and our employees are working to the point of exhaustion," Kordahi said.
Although the SOS clinic does not treat Ebola – confirmed cases must be referred to designated Ebola treatment centers – it is one of the few medical facilities in Monrovia that is still able to assist the community with other medical needs. Doctors and nurses at the SOS Medical Center wear full body personal protective equipment (PPE) suits to protect themselves in case of contact with patients infected with Ebola.
Ebola has taken the lives of more than 2,200 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria since the outbreak began in December 2013. The virus has a mortality rate that ranges from 50 to 90 percent, and the mortality rate of the current outbreak is approximately 53 percent.