TIME Magazine has named the fighters of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa as its person of the year.
The publication’s short list for finalists included:
The Ferguson Protesters
Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq
Jack Ma, Alibaba founder
Of the decision, TIME commented:
2014 is the year an outbreak turned into an epidemic, powered by the very progress that has paved roads and raised cities and lifted millions out of poverty. This time it reached crowded slums in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone; it traveled to Nigeria and Mali, to Spain, Germany and the U.S. It struck doctors and nurses in unprecedented numbers, wiping out a public-health infrastructure that was weak in the first place. One August day in Liberia, six pregnant women lost their babies when hospitals couldn’t admit them for complications. Anyone willing to treat Ebola victims ran the risk of becoming one.
Which brings us to the hero’s heart. There was little to stop the disease from spreading further. Governments weren’t equipped to respond; the World Health Organization was in denial and snarled in red tape. First responders were accused of crying wolf, even as the danger grew. But the people in the field, the special forces of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Christian medical-relief workers of Samaritan’s Purse and many others from all over the world fought side by side with local doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams.
Ask what drove them and some talk about God; some about country; some about the instinct to run into the fire, not away. “If someone from America comes to help my people, and someone from Uganda,” says Iris Martor, a Liberian nurse, “then why can’t I?” Foday Gallah, an ambulance driver who survived infection, calls his immunity a holy gift. “I want to give my blood so a lot of people can be saved,” he says. “I am going to fight Ebola with all of my might.”
TIME named as its runner up Vladimir Putin, whom the publication describes as the “increasingly isolated” President of Russia “on a mission to restore his country’s lost empire.” Notably, the lengthy written profile makes no mention of Putin’s gay propaganda law, his regime’s broader anti-gay agenda or how it pertained to this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.
TIME focuses mainly on Putin’s annexation of Crimea and his desire to re-assert Russia onto the world stage as a major player whom others must stand up and take notice. Indeed, Putin has tapped into a nationalist sentiment in Russia that resents its loss of power in the post-Soviet era.
As TIME points out, the power of Putin’s message becomes clear when considering for instance that even Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader “who who tried to reform his country only to dismantle it in 1991,” a man who was widely viewed as a noble leader of an ignoble regime, finds himself praising Putin and ‘brooding’ over his country’s loss of power:
Russia was simply pushed aside, pushed out of politics, made to feel like some kind of backwater,” he tells TIME in the Moscow office where he once received American dignitaries as equals if not exactly friends. “In everything it was America calling the shots!” But with the conquest of Crimea, a derelict peninsula about the size of Massachusetts, Putin at last restored a scrap of Russia’s honor, says Gorbachev, by “acting on his own,” unbound by the constraints of U.S. supremacy and the table manners of international law.
It should be noted that Putin’s resistance to pressure from the west on the issue of human rights and Russia’s gay community fits squarely within the narrative TIME wants to tell about Putin, that of a leader that “doesn’t want to play within the system anymore,” as Michael McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia put it. “He wants to challenge it now. He wants to prod. He wants to build relationships with others against that system, with the Chinese, Turks, maybe India. That is a longer-term challenge.”
Watch video profiles on the Ebola fighters and Putin, AFTER THE JUMP…