A group of doctors and aid workers gather on a Congolese street. Mangina, the Democratric Republic of the Congo. 28 November 2019. 12:15 AM. Gunfire: /RAT TAT TAT/
Energetic close-up portrait of World Health Organization Ebola Field Coordinator Dr. Marie Roseline Bélizaire shouting: “Get the vests!”
Dr. Bélizaire and her colleagues lay prone on the ground, shielding themselves from shots. “The night of the attack my thoughts were of my family.”
The surviving aid workers and onlookers stand in mourning over victims of the violent attack. “My son, he lives in Spain and I was thinking, ‘If I die tonight what will happen to him? What will happen to our fight against Ebola?’ A policeman, two drivers, and a vaccinator were killed that night.”
A helmeted Dr. Bélizaire racing through the underbrush of a wooded area on the back of a motorbike. “Oftentimes these attacks happen because it’s believed health-care workers are the ones bringing the disease. That’s why building trust is so important. It’s the only way that we are going to beat Ebola.”
A close-up of Dr. Bélizaire’s focused and determined eyes beneath her helmet. “We will serve these communities and continue our fight against this deadly disease. We will not leave people to die.” Armed conflict has raged in Eastern Congo for 25 years. In August 2018, an Ebola outbreak went on to kill over 2,200 people, finally ending in June 2020.
Dr. Marie Roseline Darnycka Bélizaire
In the age of COVID-19, doctors and other health personnel are called front-line workers. But humanitarian doctors are often quite literally on the front lines of both war and disease. Epidemiologist Dr. Marie Roseline Darnycka Bélizaire has braved violent conflict in hotspot after hotspot as she’s risked everything to help communities fight outbreaks, from HIV to yellow fever to Ebola—and now COVID-19.
This comic recounts one of the more frightening incidents in Dr. Bélizaire’s career—an armed attack on her Ebola response team’s facility in the town of Mangina in DRC. She survived, but a simultaneous assault on another response team in a nearby town left four dead.
Violence against humanitarians dealing with disease response has been and continues to be a devastating problem. It is a testament to the heroic spirit of those like Dr. Bélizaire that their efforts persist. But it’s not surprising. As Dr. Bélizaire says: “As doctors we have committed ourselves to saving lives. This is what we do. We cannot leave people to die.”
Since June more Ebola cases have been recorded.
Dr. Bélizaire’s story is by artist Amber L Jones .