Investigating the Role of Liberian Traditional Healers in the Ebola Outbreak

Grant awarded: £83, 513

Lead organisation: Platform for Dialogue and Peace

Partnering organisations: Ministry of Internal Affairs, Natural Resource management Consortium, Inter-Religious Council of Liberia, University of Exeter

Project length: 6 months

Study locations: Liberia

Principal Investigator: James Suah Shilue

  • KII with a 100 years old Snake and Bone Doctor, Ziah Town, Grand Gedeh County

  • K Muslime Healer speaking during FGD in Sanniquellie, Nimba County

  • P4DP Staff with FGD participants in Suakoko Town, Liberia


In Liberia, traditional health practitioners are often people’s first recourse and last resort for health care. While to some extent this indicates limitations on access to biomedical services and infrastructures, for many communities, regardless of the presence of these services the traditional health care sector remains a first choice for care. However, despite the global health community’s long-term recognition of the importance of traditional healers (THs) in enhancing public health coverage, in Liberia the role of traditional healers in emergency contexts and health systems continues to be overlooked.

For this project, the research team will initially explore the extent to which local populations are utilizing and relying on these healers. They will also investigate how traditional healers understand Ebola and their capacity to cope with it. Finally, the team will explore how this group of providers could help strengthen the national health services in the wake health crisis.

Expected outcomes:

This work will assist in developing a more nuanced understanding of alternative medicine and their public health potential, and will serve to strengthen the Liberian national health systems long after the outbreak has been brought to an end. Most broadly, this project aims to explore effective and strategic health-seeking options that promote diversification, and thereby build resilience and reactivity into the public health system.

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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