After Ebola: What next for West Africa’s health systems?

Below are extracts from a news item on the IRIN, the UN humanitarian news service. The full text is available here:

NAIROBI, 26 January 2015 (IRIN) – As rates of Ebola infection fall in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone planning has begun on how to rebuild public health systems and learn lessons from the outbreak….

Lessons learnt: “Community, community, community. Engagement, engagement, engagement”

Among the lessons learned across the region has been the importance of consulting, engaging and empowering local communities: their lack of trust in central government was a major handicap in tackling the epidemic… “We need to listen more. We need to do a lot of work with sociologists and anthropologists.” [said Margaret Harris, spokesperson of the World Health Organization (WHO)]

Best wishes, Neil


Mobilising Ebola survivors

To hasten #Ebola containment, mobilize survivors

Survivors of Ebola infection are valuable resources still largely overlooked in the struggle to contain the epidemic. With a case recovery rate of around 30% at the present time for the current West African epidemic,2 survivors already number thousands. There are several reasons why Ebola survivors may be critical to controlling the epidemic.

First, and most importantly, the recovered have developed immunity to the current strain of Ebola and therefore are able to care for the sick with little to no risk of re-infection…

Second, survivors can donate their blood, as their antibodies might be protective and help those infected to survive the deadly virus…

Third, unlike most foreign response staff, survivors speak local languages, understand cultural dynamics and may be viewed more favourably than outsiders…

Finally, Ebola survivors may play a role in generating an effective, community-based response…

To the above list, I would add the importance of survivors as advocates to demonstrate to their communities that Ebola is not a death sentence – survival from the disease is possible if people seek early treatment.

Best wishes,


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