Belly Woman: Birth, Blood and Ebola by Benjamin Black is the inside story of what it was like to face a terrifying epidemic in West Africa that, in two and a half years, resulted in 28,600 cases and 11,325 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the book's emphasis is maternity care and the Ebola epidemic in 2014-15 in Western Africa, it also flashes forward periodically to delve into the Covid-19 pandemic as experienced in London, as well as other more mundane situations that doctors like Black are faced with in a wealthy nation like the United Kingdom.
Black puts a human and profoundly humane face on what it's like to be a doctor, working in teams in which problem-solving can often only be done on the fly. Some things cannot be prepared for. There’s little time for reading through manuals and the peer-reviewed literature. or devoting resources to adequately prepare or plan for alternate scenarios.
In this context, Black’s narrative extends beyond recounting his experiences. He seeks to help chart a path forward and establish proper guidance for organizations like Doctors Without Borders. Ultimately, the overarching aim is to reduce global disparities in maternal health, and to assist in preparing for future epidemics.
Dr Benjamin Black is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist based in London and a specialist advisor to international aid organisations. He has worked with humanitarian agencies — including Médecins Sans Frontières — as well as government departments, academic institutions, and UN bodies. His focus on sexual, reproductive, and maternal healthcare for populations in crisis has taken him to many countries. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic he provided frontline healthcare to pregnant women and supported the development of international guidelines. Benjamin teaches medical teams around the world on improving sexual and reproductive health care to the most vulnerable people in the most challenging of environments.
Michela Wrong is a British author and freelance journalist with nearly 30 years of experience covering the African continent under her belt. She has written five books, the most recent of which – “Do Not Disturb”, published by Harper Collins - is a critique of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime.
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