It was a photo that took the Ebola outbreak raging in West Africa and made it very personal.
A little boy named Saah Exco, 10 years old, lies in a crumpled heap. He had been found naked on a beach in West Point, an impoverished Monrovia neighborhood. Saah had been a patient at the Ebola holding center there, for suspected Ebola cases.
And then there he was, naked on the beach. Drifting in and out of consciousness.
People in the neighborhood knew him. But they were afraid to touch him. Many folks in West Point — and throughout West Africa — don’t think Ebola is real. Yet they were afraid. What if Ebola really is real and what if the boy had the virus? It’s what NPR photographer Dave Gilkey, who took the photo of the boy that ran on our website, calls “an evil Catch 22.”
The boy was given a shirt and pants. But no one wanted to hold him, to take him into a home. Efforts were made to get him to a clinic but the clinic said no: The facility was not equipped to handle suspected Ebola patients.
Eventually a neighbor took Saah to John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Monrovia, which cares for Ebola patients.
There was a brief glimmer of hope yesterday — word came that the boy was improving.
Then today, his fate became clear. Getty photographer John Moore, who had also taken pictures of Saah, spoke to the boy’s aunt. She was checking into a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Monrovia with her five children — all of them, including her, suspected Ebola cases. The aunt said that Saah died yesterday at JFK hospital. She said the boy’s mother had previously died of Ebola as well.
In a country where some believe that the virus isn’t real, Saah Exco is now one of more than 500 victims, sealed in a tiny body bag.