Paper $24.95 ISBN: 9781783608584 Published September 2016 For sale in North and South America only
Cloth $95.00 ISBN: 9781783608591 Published September 2016 For sale in North and South America only

Ebola

How a People's Science Helped End an Epidemic

Paul Richards

Ebola

Paul Richards

Distributed for Zed Books

300 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2016
Paper $24.95 ISBN: 9781783608584 Published September 2016 For sale in North and South America only
Cloth $95.00 ISBN: 9781783608591 Published September 2016 For sale in North and South America only
In 2013, the largest Ebola outbreak in history swept across West Africa, claiming thousands of lives in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea and sending the international community into panic. By 2014, experts were grimly predicting that millions would be infected within months, and a huge international control effort was mounted to contain the virus. Yet paradoxically, at this point the disease was already going into decline in Africa itself. Why did outside observers get it so wrong?

Paul Richards draws on his extensive firsthand experience in Sierra Leone to argue that the international community’s alarmed response failed to take account of local expertise and common sense. Crucially, Richards shows that the humanitarian response to the disease was most effective in those areas where it supported community initiatives already in place, such as giving local people agency in terms of disposing of bodies. In turn, the international response dangerously hampered recovery when it ignored or disregarded local knowledge.

One of the first books to provide an in-depth analysis of the recent pandemic, Ebola offers a clear-eyed account of how and why the disease spread, and why the predictions of international commentators were so misguided. By learning from these mistakes and successes, we can better understand how to harness the power of local communities during future humanitarian health crises.
 
Contents
Figures and Tables
Acknowledgements
 
Introduction
1. The world’s first Ebola epidemic
2. The epidemic’s rise and decline
3. Washing the dead: does culture spread Ebola?
4. Ebola in rural Sierra Leone: a technography
5. Burial technique
6. Community responses to Ebola
Conclusion: strengthening an African people’s science
Postscript
 
Appendices: evidence and testimony from Ebola-affected community members (Chapter 5)
Notes
References
Index
 
 
Review Quotes
Economist
“Richards offers important insights, especially concerning the central issue of burial practices, one of the epidemic’s main routes of infection. . . . Richards’s argument is a surprisingly optimistic one. The Ebola epidemic pitted an underfunded and sluggish international public-health infrastructure against supposedly ignorant rural communities. Doomsday did not result.”
 
Nature
“Ebola’s focus on the comparatively poorly documented role of local responses to the epidemic makes it a must-read for all involved in epidemics, epidemiology and public health. . . . Richards wisely nods to the key role of national and international epidemic control. But his central thesis is that rapid local adaptation and common sense led to the Ebola epidemic’'s downturn. He terms this community action a ‘people's science’ of Ebola control. The book abounds with real-life examples from his long-term research in Sierra Leone.”
 
Foreign Affairs
“In this provocative book, Richards argues that the international response may actually have extended the epidemic’s duration, as it offered no medical solution (no cure or vaccine is yet available) and slowed the ability of the affected populations to develop the cultural and behavioral adaptations that were ultimately the key to defeating the virus—for example, changes to practices around care for the ill and burial of the dead. Too often, the well-intentioned international response was shaped by a top-down logic that sought to impose novel practices on people rather than work with them to adapt their existing customs to the new reality.”
 
Publishers Weekly
“Richards convincingly argues the broader lesson for containing future epidemics should always be a response embracing ‘common sense, improvisation, distributed practical knowledge, and collective action.’”
 
Choice
“Richards a lifelong aid worker and researcher, has penned a foundational text informed by his years of experience in Africa—specifically, Sierra Leone. His new book addresses relationships between the Ebola epidemic and the influence of “local knowledge” on effective response to the disease’s outbreak. This text juxtaposes the dire prognostications of international aid responders and epidemiologists with the positive impact of on-the-ground local expertise and response. Through a thorough explanation of local African social, cultural, and health dynamics and principles, the author underscores the benefit of leveraging local knowledge when first engaging with deadly and rapidly spreading epidemics. The book is useful for any individual teaching or practicing in the fields of psychology or medical education, as well as those in social work, education, and public health. The work’s key strength is that it provides a strong profile on local knowledge as it relates to community health and population health in times of epidemic. Richards’s informative treatise introduces practitioners, responders, educators, and policy makers to the fundamentals, contexts, methods of practice, and ultimate necessity of diverse knowledge in efforts of disease control during epidemics. Recommended.”
 
 
Ger J. Steenbergen, First Secretary of Health, Netherlands Embassy in Ghana
“A valuable reflection of the experiences of affected communities and aid workers in Sierra Leone. This book is a must for all disease control professionals in Africa and beyond. The book is also exceptionally well written and easily accessible to interested novices.”
 
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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