A Sunderland man has been honoured for his role in tackling the Ebola crisis.
Mal Robinson received the Ebola Medal for Services in West Africa – the first medal awarded by the UK Government for a humanitarian crisis response – this week.
Mal, 36, from Fulwell, spent eight months in Freetown, Sierra Leone, as part of the UK government’s relief effort in the fight against the deadly disease.
Working as part of a team for the Department of International Development, he headed up a security and communications team in the West African region.
“It is quite a rare honour to receive such a medal,” he said.
“Having served in the RAF, I had received medals for Iraq and Afghanistan, but to be presented with one as a civilian is not an everyday event.”
Sierra Leone was a life experience on so many fronts, it really was a period of my life I will not forget.Mal Robinson
Mal, now commercial manager for the University of Sunderland, was quick to highlight the work of others to tackle the crisis.
“To be honest, the real heroes were the doctors and nurses, both military and civilian, out there who dealt with the Ebola victims face to face on a daily basis, in searing heat and cramped conditions, literally putting their lives on the line all the time,” he said.
“There has been a lot of hard work to eradicate the disease and hopefully Ebola will be gone from West Africa forever.”
Part of Mal’s role saw him working with local people to highlight their own battles against the deadly virus, which has claimed more than 11,000 lives in Sierra Leone and neighbouring countries, Guinea and Liberia.
The project was entitled “Once Upon A Time In Freetown” and used images and quotes to display local people’s experiences: “I was keen to showcase how resilient the local people had been through all this and what better way than to take a picture, as we all know a picture paints a thousand words and can often tell the best story.
“I worked with a Sunderland graphic designer, Ryan Booth, on all of this, so it was very much a Wearside/African project.
“Sierra Leone was a life experience on so many fronts, it really was a period of my life I will not forget.
“From taking a speed boat from the airport to the hotel, as the roads there were nonexistent, to seeing Ebola patients admitted to hospitals, it really was something I was privileged to be a part of.”