Ebola Response Anthropology Platform

Grant awarded: £297,160

Lead organisation: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Partnering organisations: University of Sussex, Njala University, Institute of Development Studies, University of Exeter.

Project length: Nov-14 to Nov-15

Study locations: UK & Sierra Leone

Principal Investigator: Dr Melissa Parker


The Anthropology Platform will enable a co-ordinated, adaptive and iterative response to the Ebola outbreak. By drawing upon existing anthropological expertise, and undertaking targeted fieldwork, current efforts to contain the epidemic will be enhanced by providing clear, practical, real-time advice about how to engage with crucial socio-cultural and political dimensions of the outbreak and build locally-appropriate interventions.

Expected outcomes:

The project aims to develop an online shared resource portal for the socio-cultural, historical, economic and political dimensions of Ebola; to provide a platform for interaction with clinical, scientific and outbreak control teams; to support relief teams and in-country clinical and social scientific capacity through training, guidelines and rapid responses to operational questions; and to inform global health policy by drawing lessons from the current Ebola response.

Progress and outcomes achieved:

Nov-Dec was a very reactive time, with an unprecedented strong request for Anthropological input to the response, creating a huge demand for the platform and its services. They are now in a more reflective time and are planning a data mining exercise with John Edmunds’ modelling group.

The following milestones are complete:
• Manage and update front-end of online resource portal
• Collate/disseminate key anthropological literature on the historical and contemporary context of affected countries and social practices affecting transmission/ response
• Identify anthropologists/local social scientists working in affected countries
• Provide real-time rapid-response advice service to Ebola response organisations
• Support/develop briefings, guidelines and training materials to foster a socially informed epidemic response
• Immediate deployment to undertake rapid response fieldwork to support proposed or current interventions
• Identify anthropologists/local social scientists working in countries vulnerable to, but not currently affected by an Ebola outbreak
• Provide high level briefing documents and participate in regular briefing meetings as the Anthropology and Social Science Ebola SAGE sub-group.
• Research and produce academic, policy-oriented outputs advancing a comparative perspective on Ebola/other emerging infections.

Uptake has been on-going since November via the platform and its network of anthropologists at: http://www.ebola-anthropology.net/. There are also draft papers in process for the Sierra Leone CCC evaluation which took place in January.

R2HC Funding for Ebola Projects.  A Rapid Response

 In August 2014, the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa was declared an International Health Emergency by WHO and within a couple of weeks ELRHA launched a rapid-response call for research to combat the crisis.  The UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Wellcome Trust and ELRHA opened a special funding window through the Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) programme.

 The aim of this emergency call was both to produce robust research findings that could contribute to the effectiveness of the response to the current outbreak and help to draw lessons for future outbreaks of Ebola and other communicable diseases. The projects funded will strengthen the evidence base for the Ebola response in topics ranging from diagnostics to anthropology, surveillance and disease control.


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

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