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Getting to Zero: A Doctor and a Diplomat on the Ebola Frontline

Strand Campus, London

25 Feb SSSGettingtoZeroMN

In 2014, a 28-year old British doctor found himself co-running the Ebola isolation unit in Sierra Leone’s main hospital after the doctor in charge had been killed by the virus. Completely overwhelmed and wrapped in stifling protective suits, he and his team took it in turns to provide care to patients while removing dead bodies from the ward. Against all odds he battled to keep the hospital open, as the queue of sick and dying patients grew every day.

Only a few miles down the road the Irish Ambassador and Head of Irish Aid worked relentlessly to rapidly scale up the international response. At a time when entire districts had been quarantined, she travelled around the country, and met with UN agencies, the President and senior ministers so as to be better placed in alerting the world to the catastrophe unfolding in front of her.

In this blow-by-blow account, Walsh and Johnson expose the often shocking shortcomings of the humanitarian response to the outbreak, both locally and internationally, and call our attention to the immense courage of those who put their lives on the line every day to contain the disease. Theirs is the definitive account of the fight against an epidemic that shook the world.

 

Dr Sinead Walsh is the EU Ambassador to South Sudan. She has worked for Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade since 2009. She was a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in 2016/17. Prior to this, she served as the Ambassador of Ireland to Sierra Leone and Liberia and the Head of Irish Aid in the two countries, based in Freetown from 2011 to 2016. Before joining the government, Sinead spent ten years in the NGO sector, predominantly with Concern Worldwide, working in India, Pakistan, Rwanda and South Sudan, as well as in a global advocacy role. She has a BA in English from Harvard University, an MSc in development studies from University College Dublin and a PhD in social policy from the London School of Economics.

Dr Oliver Johnson is a visiting lecturer in global health at King’s College London. He was based in Freetown from 2013 to 2015 working as the Director of the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership. He was awarded an OBE in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours in recognition of his leadership role in the British response to the Ebola outbreak. Oliver studied Medicine at King’s and International Health at UCL. After graduating, he became a Teaching Fellow and helped to establish the global health education programmes at the King’s Centre for Global Health & Health Partnerships. He was recruited by Lord Crisp in 2011 to help set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health in the UK Parliament and worked as the group’s Policy Director until 2012.

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