Sierra Leone

Study on Public Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Relating to Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Prevention and Medical Care in Sierra Leone


New Report Shows Ebola Misconceptions and Stigma Persist in Sierra Leone

October 1, 2014 by Jim Stipe


Kim Pozniak
Catholic Relief Services

Michael Stulman
+221 77 333 4231

FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE, October 1, 2014 — A recent Ebola Perception Study in Sierra Leone shows that comprehensive knowledge about the disease is low and there are serious misconceptions and stigma towards Ebola-infected persons.

FOCUS 1000, with support from UNICEF and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), has released a report on Public Knowledge, Attitude, and Practices related to the prevention and medical care of Ebola in Sierra Leone. The report shows that nearly every Sierra Leonean has heard about Ebola and now believes that the disease is in the country. While denial of Ebola is down, there is a lot of misconception and stigma associated with the disease.

According to Meredith Dyson, CRS’ Health Program Manager in Sierra Leone, “the report provides a more accurate picture of how people in Sierra Leone perceive Ebola and how these perceptions impact behavior on the ground.”

The report revealed that there is a very high level of stigma & discrimination:

  • 96% of respondents report some discriminatory attitude towards people suspected of having Ebola.
  • 76% would not welcome someone back into their community after a neighbor recovered from Ebola.
  • 32% believe a school pupil fully recovered from Ebola will put other pupils in their class at risk of Ebola infection.
  • 9% would keep the information secret if a family member contracts Ebola.

However, there is fairly high knowledge of prevention against the disease:

  • 87% agree with the statement that one should avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
  • 85% agree with the statement that one can protect oneself by avoiding funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who died of Ebola.
  • 91% agree with the statement that a person with Ebola has a higher chance of survival if he/she goes immediately to a health facility.
  • About half (54%) report shaking hands or having other physical contact with an infected person.

But there are serious misconceptions:

  • third of the population thinks one can get Ebola from mosquitos (30%).
  • 30% also believe Ebola can be transmitted through air.
  • 20% believe Ebola can be treated successfully by spiritual healers.
  • 42% believe that bathing with salt and hot water can prevent Ebola.

Dyson adds,

“Earlier this year, people denied Ebola existed, which meant that some families were caring for the sick at home and putting the entire family at risk for contracting the disease. Today, we know that public education and communication has been effective, and according to the report, almost all Sierra Leoneans acknowledge that Ebola is real.

But there’s still a long road ahead of us, and much more work needs to be done. Levels of discrimination and stigma against recovered patients and the families of victims remain high, putting them at risk of secondary effects such as social exclusion and loss of livelihoods. And, there are still high levels of misconceptions about how Ebola is transmitted.

The information documented in this report is crucial for the response effort, as we adapt to the evolving realities on the ground, and respond to the most critical needs in combatting Ebola in Sierra Leone.​”

Read the full report, Study on Public Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Relating to Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Prevention and Medical Care in Sierra Leone.

For more information, contact Kim Pozniak or Michael Stulman (contact information above).

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. CRS eases suffering and provides assistance to people in need in 93 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. Our programs touch nearly 100 million lives. CRS has been helping people in need for more than 70 years. For more information, please visit or and follow CRS on social media: Facebook, Twitter at @CatholicRelief and @CRSnews, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube.