No other group is more vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic than health workers. They risk their lives daily to treat patients, while managing their own mental health and dealing with rejection from society.
This is especially true for countries in Asia where understaffed hospitals have been upended by the rising number of COVID-19 cases. In the Philippines, some health workers are forced to work without protective gear, leading them to beg for some on social media. In Indonesia, hospitals were unprepared because the government kept information on the coronavirus secret up until early March. In India, the government intimidates and censors doctors who complain about the lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
To honour these health workers, VICE asked readers to share photos of their loved ones who are currently fighting against the coronavirus. Below, they talk about the struggles these modern-day heroes face and send them words of encouragement.
This is my best friend Gianne Abcede, a registered pharmacist at a private hospital in Metro Manila. We are both from Pampanga, a province in Central Luzon. She has been living alone in Manila for a few years now but it has been extra hard on her since the government announced the lockdown in March. She can’t see her family and friends and is now living in a facility inside the hospital together with her colleagues. — Dyan Bugay, Philippines
This is my sister Tinoshini Silvakumer, a pharmacist based in Kuala Lumpur. She is on a daily marathon supporting the pharmacy in one of the city’s hospitals. I find her message in this photo inspiring. To my sister, you are an angel without wings. Thank you for your hard work and sacrifice. We want you to know that you are an amazing soul. I love you endlessly! — Gayatheri Silvakumer, Singapore.
My older sister Intan Purnama Sari, is head of the emergency room at the RSUD Cileungsi Hospital in Bogor that handles COVID-19 patients. She told me she wears a mask at home, even when she's asleep, because she's scared her kids would get infected. She's currently well, however, there's always that fear especially because she once got infected with tuberculosis after taking care of a patient. I just hope she stays healthy and protected. — Astri Ulan Sari, Indonesia
This is my best friend, Dr. Glenys Doria. She’s part of the General Surgery Department at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Manila. Aside from her daily tasks, she also helps the hospital receive donated medical supplies and distributes them to the different departments, making sure that other frontliners have supplies of PPE essentials.
I admire her dedication to her craft and her passion to fight this invisible monster called COVID-19 together with other frontliners. In this picture taken on March 31, she had just finished her shift at the hospital, looking tired but happy.
On March 26, she also donated blood to her patient when they couldn't operate on him due to low hemoglobin levels. There weren't any donors available, so she volunteered to donate her blood instead. — Jamie Dio, Philippines
My mother, Tati Mardiani is one of the medical workers at a local government-mandated health clinic in West Kalimantan. They are all susceptible to the coronavirus. Every day, she visits a different district to check on people who had just gone abroad or travelled outside the area. As her daughter, I'm obviously worried about her and the nature of her job. Whenever she gets home, she doesn't rest immediately and, instead, takes all the precautions before greeting her children. I pray to God to look after her and the other medical workers. — Hardini Junita, Indonesia
To my sister Dr. Saba Asif, I still remember how scared you used to get when a lizard crept in the room when we were kids. Look at you now, fighting an enemy we can't see to save humanity. — Imaad Abbas, India
This is my cousin Patrick (centre), together with his workmates. They are from the Negros First Provincial Blood Center. They are still collecting blood from all over our province. Patrick, thank you for pushing your limits despite the circumstances. We are always proud of you. — Zara Cabalatungan, Philippines
This is a photo of my aunt and uncle. My aunt is a nurse and my uncle is an ambulance driver. They are both frontliners in Jakarta. At the time this photo was taken, my aunt was one of the "people under surveillance,” as she had been in contact with a patient who tested positive for COVID-19. However, she has since completed the isolation period and tested negative. I want to tell them to stay strong through these hard times. We will be waiting for good news in the family WhatsApp group. As always, please stay healthy! — Asep Apip Fudin, Indonesia
My 24-year-old cousin Ratri just graduated as a nurse. She came to Jakarta to help the fight against COVID-19. To see her come all this way to live at the emergency hospital Wisma Atlet, all while wearing PPE, is touching yet worrying. Cousin, where you should be going after your graduation is Dunia Fantasi Amusement Park!
This was on her 14th day living in the hospital. Her rapid test came back negative. She is physically healthy and stays cheerful while doing her duties. Whenever she has time off, she feels extremely happy just watching Korean dramas. God bless all the young kind-hearted people in the frontlines! — Rina Widowati, Indonesia
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.