The West African Ebola epidemic has demonstrated that the existing range of medical and epidemiological responses to emerging disease outbreaks is insufficient, especially in post-conflict contexts with exceedingly poor healthcare infrastructures. This study provides baseline information on community-based epidemic control priorities and identifies innovative local strategies for containing EVD in Liberia.
In this study the authors analyzed data from the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Monrovia and Montserrado County, Liberia. The data were collected for the purposes of program design and evaluation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Government of Liberia (GOL), in order to identify: (1) local knowledge about EVD, (2) local responses to the outbreak, and (3) community based innovations to contain the virus. At the time of data collection, the international Ebola response had little insight into how much local Liberian communities knew about Ebola, and how communities managed the epidemic when they could not get access to care due to widespread hospital and clinic closures. Methods included 15 focus group discussions with community leaders from areas with active Ebola cases. Participants were asked about best practices and what they were currently doing to manage EVD in their respective communities, with the goal of developing conceptual models of local responses informed by local narratives. Findings reveal that communities responded to the outbreak in numerous ways that both supported and discouraged formal efforts to contain the spread of the disease. This research will inform global health policy for both this, and future, epidemic and pandemic responses.