See the latest information and resources from Elrha in relation to coronavirus (Covid-19)

We are Elrha, a force for change in the humanitarian community. The research and innovation we support equips the humanitarian community with the knowledge of what works, so people affected by crises get the right help when they need it most.
Our purpose is clear: to empower the humanitarian community to improve humanitarian response. We make this happen by supporting and championing the outcomes of robust research and proven innovations.
We empower the humanitarian community. Find out how we can support you...

Principal Investigator: John Kinsman, Umeå University, Sweden


This study took an applied anthropological approach, first examining community perceptions of current Ebola messages and the broader Ebola response, and then developing Ebola treatment-seeking messages that respond to people’s concerns. These messages were then validated in a further, short round of field work, and refined and disseminated to key in-country stakeholders for use.

John Kinsman

Associate Professor, Umeå University

We are delighted that the timing worked so well, and that we are able to contribute substantively to such a critical national mobilization event


The project has developed a set of gender-sensitive and urban-rural-specific Ebola messages, with accompanying messengers and channels. These have been field-tested and amended accordingly, and then disseminated. A database of visual Ebola messages used in the country has also been built.

Related News


‘Don’t be so Academic!’– Messaging on Ebola Treatment Seeking Behaviour in Sierra Leone


Ebola: Rumours Complicate the Fight

Key Findings

  • The study found that the majority of the messages are in English, which is particularly striking in a country with very high illiteracy rates (UNICEF estimates the total adult literacy rate to be 43%). The predominance of English also serves as a reminder that much of the Ebola response has been driven by non-Sierra Leoneans. The research identified a range of areas of real concern that people have about the Ebola response. The study identified strong feelings towards ambulance drivers and burial teams, both of which were perceived, especially early in the epidemic, as being insensitive towards patients and corpses respectively.
  • The study noted that people disliked the chlorine that has been such an integral part of the Ebola response, and there were many informants who believed that chlorine has been deliberately used to kill people. These apparently widely held feelings have acted as strong barriers to Ebola treatment-seeking behaviour.
  • The research also found that the messengers and the channels needed to be carefully considered according to the target population. For example, chiefs and town criers were seen as being far more relevant channels for rural populations than for urban populations; while social media were seen as attractive for urban youth.

Key Outputs:

  • 1 peer review article published and a database of visual Ebola messages (see below ‘Publications’ section for details)
  • A presentation was made to the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) Daily Briefing directly after the strategy development workshop in March 2015, including a draft set of messages and associated channels and messengers, along with associated operational issues. These were well received, and the team was asked to immediately draw up messages that could be used in the country during the 3-day lockdown the following weekend.
  • After field-testing and refining of the messages, a final draft of our messaging document was presented to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, representatives from NERC and the Social Mobilisation Pillar, UN agencies, and a number of NGOs.


Article Ebola

Development of a set of community-informed Ebola messages for Sierra Leone

Report Ebola

A set of empirically-derived Ebola messages for Sierra Leone

Report Ebola

A database of visual Ebola messages from Sierra Leone

Latest Updates

Press release

May 2015

Umeå-based researcher presents Ebola report in Sierra Leone


Briefing Sheets

Apr 2015

As part of a project aimed at developing messages promoting Ebola treatmentseeking behavior in Sierra Leone, Associate Professor John Kinsman from Umeå University in Sweden travelled to Sierra Leone to work with his partners



Mar 2015

'Don't be so academic' - Messaging on Ebola Treatment Seeking Behaviour in Sierra Leone


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.

Subscribe to our newsletters....

Elrha © 2018 - 2021 Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110). KEEP IN TOUCH Want to stay up to date with our latest updates? Sign up to our newsletters
Elrha Please upgrade your browser

You are seeing this because you are using a browser that is not supported. The Elrha website is built using modern technology and standards. We recommend upgrading your browser with one of the following to properly view our website:

Windows Mac

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of browsers. We also do not intend to recommend a particular manufacturer's browser over another's; only to suggest upgrading to a browser version that is compliant with current standards to give you the best and most secure browsing experience.