Sierra Leone + 2 more

Key sociocultural dimensions of scientific research and response to the West African Ebola outbreak, Briefing Note for WHO Ebola Science Committee, 04/06/2018

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Ebola Response Anthropology Platform

Key points

  1. Caring is human, and intensely practical. Yet scientific discussions concerning the current Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic frequently portray caring practices, including burial, as irrational or immutable traditions.

  2. Rumours, resistance or continued at-risk practices are more helpfully interpreted as evidence of genuine concerns with the quality of the response as implemented on the ground, or a pointer to the irrelevance of the response to people’s most pressing health or livelihood concerns

  3. Current fears and uncertainty are influenced by historical experiences of external predation (slave traders, colonial regimes, recent warlordism). There is potential for people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to mistrust the motives of anyone outside their communities. This risk needs to be taken seriously and explicitly addressed at all stages of the design, implementation and oversight of research and infection control

While this briefing note identifies arenas of particular significance with regard to burial practices and clinical sampling, such practices and perceptions are not standardised and are likely to change as social responses to EVD evolve. Mechanisms therefore need to be put in place to identify and respond flexibly to varied and shifting local concerns.

Read the full report on IDS.