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Ebola: media ‘overlooked Africa's role in combating crisis’

THE GUARDIAN by Sam Jones                                                              April 7, 2015

Africa’s efforts to tackle the Ebola crisis have been largely overlooked even though Africans have taken the lead in providing frontline staff and shown themselves “better placed to fight infectious diseases in their continent than outsiders”, according to the African Union (AU).

A Liberian health worker checks the temperature of students to curb the spread of Ebola in Caldwell, outside the capital Monrovia. Photograph: Ahmed Jallanzo/EPA

Dr Olawale Maiyegun, director of social affairs at the AU commission, said that despite the fact that Africans had proved both willing and able to deal with Ebola, the focus had been on the work of international agencies and those with the greatest media clout.

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Ebola diaries: Regaining the people’s trust

WHO                                                                                                          March 31, 2015
Cristiana Salvi, a risk communications specialist from WHO’s European regional office was deployed to Guinea at the end of April – early May 2014 to provide social mobilization support to the Ebola response. Social mobilization involves working with communities to gain their acceptance of the need for early identification of people with illness, early treatment and identification and follow up of all people who have been in contact with people confirmed to have Ebola virus disease.

 Cristiana was among the first from WHO offices other than Headquarters and the African office to provide support to the field response, many others followed from the “wider WHO”. She travelled to Gueckedou where communities had begun to hide people who were sick, fearing treatment centres, believing rumours Ebola response teams were there for sinister purposes. This is what she found.


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Combatting Rumors About Ebola: SMS Done Right

When misinformation is a case of life or death, aid workers and communities need an ear to the ground

INTERNEWS   by  Anahi Ayala Iacucci                                                March 26, 2015

 What is now clear to healthcare organizations working on the ground in West Africa is that the Ebola epidemic has been driven as much by misinformation and rumors as by weaknesses in the health system. It is common sense that information is a critical element in combatting disease, particularly when contagion from common social practices, such as bathing the corpses of the deceased, were central to so much of the early spread of the disease. But in the context of a massive disease outbreak, when hundreds of international organizations and billions of dollars flood into a region whose fragile infrastructure has been damaged by years of civil war, information dissemination becomes a powerful challenge.

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The State of Vaccine Confidence

The Vaccine Confidence Project    2015

Lead Authors:  Heidi Larson, PhD and Will Schulz, MPH
Why this report:
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How Did Ebola Volunteers Know Where To Go In Liberia? Crowdsourcing!

NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO  by Poncie Rutsch                                                      March 25, 2015
From more than 900 miles away, Kpetermeni Siakor helped get volunteers to the right neighborhoods in his native Liberia during the height of the Ebola epidemic.

Kpetermeni Siakor (left), a Liberian who is studying in Ghana, used crowdsourcing software to help out during the Ebola epidemic. Courtesy of Ashesi University College

He did it with Ushahidi, crowdsourcing software that was developed in Kenya in 2008, when the country experienced a wave of post-election violence. The word Ushahidi means testimony in Swahili.

"The government had shut down internet connections and radio stations, so Ushahidi was born out of the need to let people know what is happening," says Siakor, 26. He's a computer science student at Ashesi University College in Accra, Ghana, and receives financial support from the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program.

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Fighting Ebola with a holistic vision of big data

TECH REPUBLIC  by Mary Shaklett                                                                         March 24, 2015

Big data practitioners are learning that the laboratory know-how of computer scientists and statisticians must be matched with a holistic, 360-degree vision of the problem to be solved. TheEbola crisis is a prime example....

If big data is going to help solve health issues like Ebola, it must be incorporated into analytics that consider all of the factors shaping the epidemic. These are three of the ingredients that should be factored into Ebola analytics.

1: There are political barriers that stand in the way of obtaining data from cell phone providers that could assist researchers in determining where the disease will strike next.

2: Even if disease researchers could obtain this data, there is a need to "correct" the data for what it doesn't reveal. For example, if less than 50% of a country's population has access to mobile phones and individuals are constantly moving from village to village, how will researchers be able to verify the quality of the data they're getting unless there are people "on the ground" who can verify or provide corrective factors to the data?

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Emails: UN health agency resisted declaring Ebola emergency

ASSOCIATED PRESS   by   Maria Cheng and Raphael Satter                                        March 20, 2015

GENEVA  — In a delay that some say may have cost lives, the World Health Organization resisted calling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a public health emergency until last summer, two months after staff raised the possibility and long after a senior manager called for a drastic change in strategy, The Associated Press has learned.

Among the reasons the United Nations agency cited in internal deliberations: worries that declaring such an emergency — akin to an international SOS — could anger the African countries involved, hurt their economies or interfere with the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

Those arguments struck critics, experts and several former WHO staff as wrong-headed.

"That's like saying you don't want to call the fire department because you're afraid the fire trucks will create a disturbance in the neighborhood," said Michael Osterholm, a prominent infectious diseases expert at the University of Minnesota.

In public comments, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan has repeatedly said the epidemic caught the world by surprise.

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3 ways mobile helped stop the spread of Ebola in Nigeria

BROOKINGS TECH TANK   by Joshua Bleiberg and Darrell M. West                                       March 19, 2015

...There were a variety of factors that contributed to Nigeria’s success at combating the (Ebola)  disease. One important factorwas the use of mobile electronic health records programs.

1. Training Healthcare Workers

Training health care providers was a priority at the beginning of the Ebola outbreak. A survey found that 85 percent of health care workers in the country believed you could avoid Ebola by abstaining from handshakes or touching. Correcting these myths about the disease was a critical part of the response effort, especially for health care workers.

2. Rapid Deployment

One of the virtues of mHealth is its speed and flexibility. Mobile allows officials to quickly disseminate the latest information to front line health care workers. Increasing the speed of communication is a general boon to any large public health response.

3. Virtual Records

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The case for EOCs post-Ebola

DEVEX    by  By Jenny Lei Ravelo                        March 19, 2015
Emergency operation centers have been critical in stemming potential Ebola outbreaks in several West African countries like Nigeria and Mali, but there remain doubts about whether countries would keep them post-Ebola. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, special representative of the secretary-general and head of the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, meets with UNMEER staff at the Ebola Operation Center in Bamako, Mali. Should EOCs be retained post-Ebola? Photo by: Pierre Peron / UNMEER / CC BY-ND

This is largely because of its potential to cause “institutional turf wars” within the government structure, according to Madji Sock, partner at global development advisory firm Dalberg.

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A Life-Saving Comic: Educating Children in West Africa about Ebola

BIOSECTOR PRESS  by Chris Shilling                    March 9, 2015

As efforts intensify at all levels by international health organisations and on the ground by community health workers in providing treatment, supplies and preventive measures,  young people and children – perhaps the ones most affected – need to have access to good health education resources to help them better understand both the medical and health aspects of Ebola.

To address this issue, Afrelib is working in partnership with Medikidz, ( the world’s first medical information company aimed at children, to produce learning material in an interactive, comic book format. With this health education comic, it should be possible to provide easy-to-understand and engaging information so that it not only helps in disseminating good preventive measures as recommended by public health organisations but also helps them in dealing with the cultural and social issues surrounding this epidemic.

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