A Jewish obstetrician from Manchester has told of working 24-hour shifts in Sierra Leone as he desperately tries to combat the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.
Dr Benjamin Black (pictured), now based in London, works for Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), one of only two organisations working in West Africa to stop the spread of the deadly disease, which can kill up to 90 percent of those infected.
Black, 32, a specialist registrar who woks at north London’s Whittington Hospital, explained how a strong local belief in the powers of witchcraft and sorcery was hindering medical efforts.
Many sufferers refuse to recognise the existence of Ebola, he said, and some village chiefs refusing entry to the medical teams.
“They will say ‘yes, people in my family have died already, but this is witchcraft rather than Ebola’,” he said.
In a series of media interviews, Black acknowledged his own life was on the line, saying: “A lot of health workers have unfortunately contacted the illness already, and the risks are very high.”
Despite this, and despite a death-toll of about 670 people, he described the highs of successfully treating two patients, such that they recovered.
“They were amazing, emotional occasions,” he recalled, “where the whole clinic, from the cleaning staff to the head of the mission, would come out and give big applause.”