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Ebola: business as usual is not an option

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23 September 2015
Ebola: business as usual is not an option

Though global media attention has largely switched to Europe’s migration crisis, Ebola still continues to claim lives in West Africa. Even as Sierra Leone recently tried to begin a 42-day countdown to being Ebola-free, two new cases this week have prompted another quarantine, raising the question once again of what it will take to end this virus.

At the heart of the debate, recent SLRC research points to the need for a smarter model of capacity building that is both people-centred and systemically aware.

Back in July, SLRC Researcher Richard Mallett wrote in Why capacity building needs to smarten up, ‘capacity building is about using foreign aid to strengthen the ability of recipient governments to do stuff better.’ The problem is that capacity building is often approached in a too narrow, reductive and overly technical way.

In After Ebola: why and how capacity building needs to change, Richard and co-author Lisa Denney argued that closer attention to the intangible and invisible dimensions of capacity was needed; that capacity building should engage with how people and communities actually use services; and that support should be targeted not just to the units within a health system but the connections between them.

The report and its briefing paper drew extensive media coverage worldwide, including the New York Times: ‘Scapegoated faith healers needed in Sierra Leone health system: report’.

An associated public event, Ebola: a humanitarian crisis and development wake-up call, was held at ODI London on Friday 3 July. Co-hosted by the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) and the Humanitarian Practice Network (HPN), and chaired by Wendy Fenton, HPN Coordinator, this public event offered an opportunity to reflect on the Ebola crisis from both the humanitarian and development perspectives, beginning with a keynote address from His Excellency Mr Edward M Turay, the High Commissioner of Sierra Leone.

Joining Lisa on the panel were Marc DuBois, former executive director of MSF-UK and independent researcher, and Theodora Hamilton, Treasurer, 50/50 Group of Sierra Leone. Discussants Ade Daramy Chair and Spokesperson for the UK Ebola Task Force, and Mohammad Jalloh CEO, Focus 1000, Sierra Leone, contributed to the lively discussion that ensued. The full event is still available to view online, go to: http://www.odi.org/events/4228-ebola-humanitarian-development-sierra-leone-social-mobilisation-aid-msf