Learning from the Ebola Response in cities: Population movement
Population mobility is a critical area of concern in any infectious disease crisis, and particularly in those spread through human-to-human contact, such as Ebola. During the West African Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in 2014/15, population mobility within and between urban and rural areas became a key challenge for humanitarian response. Despite restrictions at border crossings, attempts to control population mobility proved largely unsuccessful. This paper explores the urban dimensions of population mobility, including forces for and drivers of mobility as well as the implications for humanitarian response.
As part of ALNAP's Learning from the Ebola response in cities project, this paper identifies the following key messages to take forward into future public health crises in urban environments:
• Urban spaces see a high number of anonymous, untraceable interactions every day, and it is easy for people to disappear. This problematises contact tracing and surveillance efforts.
• People move across porous and fluid national and urban borders quickly and easily.
• The drivers of population movement are diverse, encompassing labour, livelihoods, social and familiar connections, cultural activity, legal differentiation and fear. Research about the drivers and motivations behind population mobility in urban areas could enhance future public health responses.
• The success of small-scale community-level surveillance and self-reporting suggests this may be a more effective area towards which to direct efforts. As such, we should pay more attention to ways of incorporating communities in surveillance and encouraging self-monitoring behaviour.