Principal Investigator: Melissa Parker, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
The Ebola epidemic in West African left 11,000+ dead and 17,000+ survivors struggling with devastating social, economic and medical consequences. The public health response faltered for a variety of reasons, especially social and cultural ones. To address these, a team of anthropologists with longstanding knowledge, partnerships and commitments in the ‘tri-border’ region of Sierra Leone-Guinea-Liberia mobilised in 2014 to bring real-time advice to the medical and humanitarian response as unprecedented and uncertain events unfolded.
Anthropological research is essential - there is a tendency in the humanitarian world to have top down interventions which too hastily set aside the social, political and cultural context and mistakenly encourage a one size fits all approach. Anthropologists need to reverse this trend and to have a central role in global health policy and practice. This seems to be happening in the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
It really has been a game changer. In the past Anthropology has been given a minor role in public health interventions. This time, from the outset, senior ofﬁcials from the WHO, DFID, the UK Ministry of Defence and Ministers within Sierra Leone were pushing for Anthropological input to help identify the social, historical, political and economic issues that might inﬂuence the effectiveness of interventions seeking to prevent the transmission of Ebola
The Ebola Response Anthropology Platform enabled social scientists and outbreak control teams to interact to develop a co-ordinated, adaptive and iterative response to the Ebola outbreak. The research helped to build a more locally appropriate and socially informed outbreak response by providing clear, practical, real-time advice that engages with crucial socio-cultural and political dimensions of the outbreak. The research team also completed a number of rapid response fieldwork projects:
Resource portal to enable rapid access to key resources in relation to the socio-cultural and political dimensions of the outbreak in West Africa
Since the 2014 Ebola outbreak, LSHTM and IDS have taken steps to develop an Epidemic Response Anthropology Platform (ERAP). This launched in June 2018 as platform for anthropologists to inform the response to future epidemic outbreaks..:-
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.
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