Practice briefing: Lessons learned from Ebola

 

Failings during the early months of the Ebola outbreak caused the epidemic to become an unprecedented health crisis in West Africa. This cannot be repeated.

Publication date: June 2016

Author: Sophia Wilkinson

Overview: This practice briefing sets out what BBC Media Action learned in delivering and supporting health communication in response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014–15. It has a particular focus on Sierra Leone as this was the hub of the organisation’s response.

The paper aims to contribute to a body of knowledge about how to best harness and deploy media and communication in public health emergencies. It also underscores the need for the global community to plan and invest in communication long before any crises take hold, to ensure that communication plays a central role in reducing the impact of future crisis events.

The paper sets out the specific communication challenge posed by Ebola and why it was so difficult to get to grips with this in the early months of the outbreak. It then documents when the health communication response became more useful and explores what that tells us about effective media and communication. Finally, it offers recommendations to ensure that media and communication are used to their full potential during other disease outbreaks or humanitarian crises.