On August 26th 2014, I traveled to Liberia on assignment for the Wall Street Journal to cover the outbreak of Ebola, which was devastating Western Africa. I knew it was dangerous, but I hoped my images would make a difference. The region had been dealing with the outbreak since March. By August, the rest of the world had done little to help curb what could potentially be a worldwide pandemic.
I witnessed and documented many heart-wrenching moments in Liberia, including the frequent sight of incredibly sick people being turned away from clinics. Treatment centers were overrun with patients and overwhelmed by lack of beds, supplies and staff, and many Ebola victims died at their gates or returned home, likely to infect others, before dying a painful death.
During my trip, I worked on a story about how even taxis played a part in helping spread the disease. Taxi drivers often risked their lives, some unknowingly, to drive the sick to Ebola treatment centers. Every passenger they dropped off, many feverish and highly infectious, had the potential to leave behind the virus on the seat, floor or door handle. This put taxi drivers and future passengers at great risk of contracting and further spreading Ebola.
This image shows a taxi driver protecting himself with what little equipment he could from the sick woman he drove to the Ebola treatment center. (Sadly, none of the permeable, personal protective equipment he's wearing could actually protect him from the virus.) Shortly after arriving, both he and the woman’s family, driving behind in their own car, were told that no beds were available and they had to leave. I captured this shot shortly after security turned the car around and instructed them to drive away.
I’m happy to hear via recent news reports that the rate of Ebola infections and deaths has slowed. There are even empty beds at some of the once over-crowded treatment centers where I had witnessed people being turned away. Of course, I worry that this will change—that this is merely a lull in a larger timeline of the Ebola outbreak. I am even more concerned that this message of an Ebola “respite" in West Africa will deflect or desaturate the attention that was so hard to get from the western world. I hope that my images will continue to focus that attention toward aid and subsidy so desperately needed to keep Ebola at bay.
Camera: 5D Mark III
Lens: Canon 24-105mm at 105mm
Shutter Speed: 1/6400 sec