Foreign leaders discussing solutions to the Ebola epidemic must acknowledge the contribution made by local workers to reduce infection rates.
Community Engagement has been identified as a cross-cutting priority in WHO`s Emergency Reform agenda as outlined in WHO Emergency Reform: Roadmap for Action. The report serves as a blueprint for the reform process and calls for a plan/strategy with “operational capacity for effective community engagement, including work in outbreaks and other health emergencies” is required as part of the Roadmap.To this end, the workshop aimed to clarify WHO’s role in community engagement in outbreaks and emergencies.
The planned outputs and outcomes of the workshop were to obtain:i. Agreement on the scope of community engagement and related approaches in the context of outbreaks and health emergencies ii. Inputs for WHO’s role and functions in community engagement (and related fields) in outbreaks and emergencies iii. Identify linkages to be made with emergency risk communication iv. Recommendations for improving coordination of community engagement interventions during outbreaks and health emergencies v.
Risk communication officers from the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) at the national and provincial level conducted briefing sessions on the coordination and preparation of campaign activities for district chief medical officers, and provided coaching in techniques to encourage social mobilization and community engagement.
Cheikh Ibrahima Niang, a professor of medical and social anthropology at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal, has researched anthropological aspects of a wide range of health issues.
In July 2014, WHO asked him to investigate community attitudes to Ebola virus disease. He led a team of anthropologists to Sierra Leone just as the outbreak exploded in the eastern part of that country. This is what he found.
International partners are supporting Gueckedou health authorities to implement response actions. Médecins Sans Frontières has established a treatment centre and ensures the transport of suspected cases.
The Red Cross is working on infection control and safe burial. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping to manage epidemiological data. WHO has assisted with the deployment of a European Mobile Laboratory and is working on contact tracing and overall coordination.
After many months of prolonged closure due to fear of Ebola transmission, schools have reopened in Guinea last month.
WHO and partners have played a crucial role in preparing schools to open their doors to students.
WHO’s social mobilization team is using radio to reach communities with information about how to prevent the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone.
This working paper reports on a study to identify epidemic control priorities among 15 communities in Monrovia and Montserrado County, Liberia. Data were collected in September 2014 on the following topics: prevention, surveillance, care-giving, community-based treatment and support, networking/hotlines/calling response teams and referrals, management of corpses, quarantine and isolation, orphans, memorialization, and the need for community-based training and education.
The study also reviewed issues of fear and stigma towards Ebola victims and survivors, and support for those who have been affected by Ebola. The findings provide several models that can inform international and governmental support for community-based management of the current Ebola outbreak.
The Ebola response in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea demonstrated that community engagement is critical in responding to epidemics. This was not always a guiding principle in the fight against Ebola, which initially prioritized biomedical and militarized responses. Working in partnership with communities – providing space to listen and acknowledge distinct needs – only came later in the response. Incorporating communities in different aspects of the response was partly hampered by the inflexibility of some agencies, which wanted to promote a perfect model for community engagement.
Arguably, these tended to overlook the diversity within communities, and did not respond to the realities of Ebola’s spread.During an inter-agency social mobilization workshop organized by Oxfam in September 2015, a group of practitioners and technical experts agreed that it would be best to explore diverse models of community empowerment and action that adhered to specific key principles rather than promote a fixed ‘one size fits…