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

Hosted by Global Health Initiative and the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa

Vera Anstey Room, Old Building


Dr Oliver Johnson

Dr Oliver Johnson

Visiting lecturer in global health at King’s College London

Dr Sinead Walsh

Dr Sinead Walsh

EU Ambassador to South Sudan


Laura Sochas

Laura Sochas

Department of Social Policy

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.

About the authors

Dr Oliver Johnson (@ossjohnson) 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.

Dr Sinead Walsh (@SWalshEU) is the EU Ambassador to South Sudan. She has worked for Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade since 2009. Throughout the Ebola crisis, Sinead focussed heavily on coordination, policy and planning, trouble-shooting and advocacy within the national response and at the international level. Along with the Embassy team, she also oversaw funding to the response, particularly in the areas of Ebola treatment, ambulances and burial vehicles, and nutrition.


Laura Sochas (@LauraSochas). Laura Sochas is a doctoral candidate in Social Policy, researching maternal health inequalities in Zambia. Prior to the PhD,  Laura conducted research and delivered technical assistance on maternal health, human resources for health, and health financing, for clients such as UNFPA, DFID, the Gates Foundation, and the UN Secretary General’s Office. She has developed a methodology to estimate the indirect effects of humanitarian crises, such as the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, on reproductive, maternal, child, and neonatal health. 

Signed copies of the book will be on sale at the end of the event at the discounted price of £10 (rrp £12.99). Both card and cash are accepted.

To read more about the book head over to the Getting to Zero website.

Event hashtag - #GettingToZeroBook 

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