Anthropologists providing advice on how to engage with crucial socio-cultural and political dimensions of the Ebola outbreak and build locally-appropriate interventions. This site closed to new material at the end of the West African Ebola epidemic but much of the material it carries is of general relevance to new Ebola epidemics including the current outbreak in DRC.
Reducing transmission from funeral practices in ways which appreciate their significance to families and community life; building on local adaptations to produce and disseminate guidelines for safe and respectful burials, taking into account distinct gender roles in the management of the dead, and provision for orphans.
Some attention has been paid to the alleged role of funerals in spreading Ebola Virus Disease in Upper West Africa. This has led to attempts to control funerals, causing both distress and active resistance. Critical examination of the role of the funeral event as a mechanism of Ebola transmission seems in order. In this paper, it is argued that funerals are inseparable from care for the sick, as far as Ebola transmission is concerned. The focal issue then becomes not control of funerals but reduction Continue reading →
WHO has developed a protocol to provide information on the safe management of burial of patients who died from suspected or confirmed Ebola virus disease. These measures should be applied not only by medical personnel but by anyone involved in the management of burial of suspected or confirmed Ebola patients. Twelve steps have been identified describing the different phases Burial Teams have to follow to ensure safe burials, starting from the moment the teams arrive in the village up to their return to the hospital or team headquarters after burial and Continue reading →
This brief summarises attitudes of community leaders and residents in and around Monrovia. It is intended to provide an evidence-base to support the SOP on safe and dignified burials, and to contribute to ongoing discussions about mass-graves and national memorials. The French version of the brief is available here.
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.
While this briefing note identifies arenas of particular significance with regard to burial practices, such practices are not standardised, are likely to change as social responses to Ebola evolve, and therefore need to be discussed on a locality by locality basis. Key points are given in this policy brief, followed by a more substantial discussion of burial and cultural practices that increase risk of EVD transmission.
‘The Ebola epidemic ravaging parts of West Africa is the most severe acute public health emergency seen in modern times. Never before in recorded history has a biosafety level four pathogen infected so many people so quickly, over such a broad geographical area, for so long’ (Margaret Chan, 26th September 2014, WHO). This report focuses on the local beliefs and practices around illnesses and death, the transmission of disease and spirituality, which affect decision-making around health-seeking behaviour, caring for relatives and the nature of burials. Continue reading →
Burials in times of Ebola or Marburg outbreaks have to follow strict biosafety rules to avoid transmission of Ebola/Marburg virus. At the same time, they should be acceptable to families and communities to avoid resistance against disease control. This document deals predominantly with acceptability issues.
The aim of this briefing paper is to consider the various ways in which widely reported fear and resistance to the Ebola response can be understood, and what each way of understanding offers to those battling with the current epidemic. As far as this paper is concerned, there is no single ‘right way’ to comprehend resistance to educators, medics and burial teams, as this is a very complex social phenomenon. The aim instead is to outline the variety of ways in which resistance can be Continue reading →
Held as part of the African Studies Association conference 2014, Ebola: The Challenges united an esteemed panel of speakers to discuss ways in which academia can mobilise to support those effected by the ebola outbreak.
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 →