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
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.
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.