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Rural populations exposed to Ebola Virus Disease respond positively to localised case handling: Evidence from Sierra Leone

Mokuwa, Esther Yei; Maat, Harro

Summary

At the height of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone in November 2014, a new decentralized approach to ending infection chains was adopted. This approach was based on building local, small-scale Community Care Centres (CCC) intended to serve as triage units for safe handling of patients waiting for test results, with subsequent transfer to Ebola Treatment Centers (ETC) for those who tested positive for Ebola. This paper deals with local response to the CCC, and explains, through qualitative analysis of focus group data sets, why this development was seen in a positive light. The responses of 562 focus group participants in seven villages with CCC and seven neighbouring referral villages without CCC are assessed. These data confirm that CCC are compatible with community values concerning access to, and family care for, the sick. Mixed reactions are reported in the case of "safe burial", a process that directly challenged ritual activity seen as vital to maintaining good relations between socially-enclaved rural families. Land acquisitions to build CCC prompted divided responses. This reflects problems about land ownership unresolved since colonial times between communities and government. The study provides insights into how gaps in understanding between international Ebola responders and local communities can be bridged.