In August 2014, the World Health Organisation declared Ebola a public health crisis of international concern. Within weeks, Professor Leach from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, assembled a team of anthropologists and set up an emergency response platform to offer live information for people on the ground.
Drawing on three decades’ worth of research experience in the border region of Sierra Leone-Guinea-Liberia, the researchers recognised the need to bring communities on board. The Ebola Response Emergency Platform website was accessed by more than 16,000 users and delivered online and face-to-face advice to policymakers and practitioners in areas affected by the outbreak. The platform helped with identifying and diagnosing cases, caring for the sick, training clinical personnel and managing death and funerals. In addition, the platform directly impacted communication and community cohesion; shaping response activities to the outbreak in Sierra Leone.
ERAP went on to shape UK and international strategy, forming a social science division of the UK Government Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and presenting evidence to three UK Parliamentary Inquiries on Ebola.
“We were able to feed social science into the emergency responses, helping to make them more effective.” Professor Melissa Leach, University of Sussex.
Based on their success in providing rapid, social evidence-based advice to policy and practice, the ERAP team is now working with a range of organisations including UNICEF and the Wellcome Trust to develop a model for wider emergency response.