Despite more than 25 documented outbreaks of Ebola since 1976, our understanding of the disease is limited, in particular the social, political, ecological, and economic forces that promote (or limit) its spread. In the following study, we seek to provide new ways of understanding the 2013-2015 Ebola pandemic. We use the term, ‘pandemic,’ instead of ‘epidemic,’ so as not to elide the global forces that shape every localized outbreak of infectious disease. By situating life histories via a biosocial approach, the forces promoting or retarding Continue reading →
This is the review of the Ebola Crisis Appeal Response in Sierra Leone of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) that unites 13 of the largest UK humanitarian charities to raise funds in response to major international humanitarian crises. The review team consisted of an external team leader, a DEC member representative and the DEC chief executive with complementary roles and expertise. Fieldwork took place from 8th to 18th February. The team visited Freetown and Western Area, Port Loko Bombali, and Tonkolili. They used semi-structured questionnaires to Continue reading →
This paper seeks to understand the fear many Guineans feel towards Ebola response initiatives and why the educators, doctors and burial teams have sometimes encountered resistance, occasionally violent. Resistance has been catastrophic for the epidemic, preventing treatment, contact tracing and quarantine, permitting its spread. The paper sketches a history of dissent and violence during the epidemic before showing how some actions that Ebola response teams interpret as ‘resistance’ are less actions ‘against’ Ebola response, than actions that have their own cultural logics. But the paper Continue reading →
The scale of West Africa’s Ebola epidemic has been attributed to the weak health systems of affected countries, their lack of resources, the mobility of communities and their inexperience in dealing with Ebola. This briefing for African Affairs argues that these explanations lack important context. The briefing examines responses to the outbreak and offers a different set of explanations, rooted in the history of the region and the political economy of global health and development. To move past technical discussions of “weak” health systems, it Continue reading →
Funeral practices in Freetown are varied with differences between typical Muslim and Christian practices. Muslims typically bury the body the same day, or the day after, the death, whereas Christians might wait for up to several weeks while arrangements are made. Muslims normally bury bodies in a shroud, whereas Christians use a coffin. The bodies are typically prepared for burial (washed) by family members. This background paper gives more information on care and burial practices in Urban Sierra Leone.
This article discusses the role of rumors in everyday Acholi life in war-torn northern Uganda. These rumors concern various health threats such as HIV and Ebola. The rumors are closely associated with the forces of domination that are alleged to destroy female sexuality and women’s reproductive health and, by extension, Acholi humanity. Moreover, the rumors are stories that say something profound about lived entrapments and political asymmetries in Uganda and beyond.
The current outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in Upper West Africa is the largest ever recorded. Molecular evidence suggests spread has been almost exclusively through human-to-human contact. Social factors are thus clearly important to understand the epidemic and ways in which it might be stopped, but these factors have so far been little analyzed. The present paper focuses on Sierra Leone, and provides data on the least understood part of the epidemic – the largely undocumented spread of Ebola in rural areas. Various forms of Continue reading →
Case Studies on Contemporary Social Issues book by Barry Hewlett and Bonnie Hewlett. In this case study, readers will embark on an improbable journey through the heart of Africa to discover how indigenous people cope with the rapid-killing Ebola virus. The Hewletts are the first anthropologists ever invited by the World Health Organization to join a medical intervention team and assist in efforts to control an Ebola outbreak. Their account addresses political, structural, psychological, and cultural factors, along with conventional intervention protocols as problematic to achieving Continue reading →
Haemorrhagic fevers have, par excellence, captured popular and media imagination as deadly diseases to come ‘out of Africa’. Associated with wildlife vectors in forested environments, viral haemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola, Marburg and lassa fever figure high in current concern about so-called ‘emerging infectious diseases’, their hotspots of origin and threat of global spread. Outbreak narratives have justified rapid and sometimes draconian international policy responses and control measures. Yet there is a variety of other ways of framing haemorrhagic fevers. There present different views concerning Continue reading →
Viruses that cause haemorrhagic fevers have been popularized by the media as fierce predators that threaten to devastate global populations. Professor Melissa Leach says there is much to learn from combining local and scientific knowledge in dealing with these deadly pathogens.