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AAA/WCAA/Wenner-Gren Foundation Emergency Initiative on the Ebola Outbreak

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The American Anthropological Association / World Council of Anthropological Associations/ Wenner-Gren Foundation Emergency Initiative on the Ebola Outbreak, brought together anthropologists from around the world with expertise in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria, other Ebola-affected regions, and in infectious disease management for a workshop to address critical issues in the current Ebola outbreak. The workshop held at George Washington University from November 6-7, 2014 generated a series of short briefing papers that provide actionable guidance to real-time actors in the field for how to proceed with technical, political, social, and economic management and containment of the current crisis. 

You can stream the 2014 panels via YouTube: Part 1 - Panel 1 and Part 2 - Panel 2 and read summary highlights, below.  

Numerous experts have noted that distinctive characteristics of the affected countries in the region, including their post-conflict histories, weak governmental and vulnerable public health sectors, and patterns of urbanization, have contributed to the rapid spread of the Ebola outbreak. Many commentators have furthermore noted that many of the aspects of the current epidemic pose cultural, institutional, and economic and political challenges that threaten to escalate the crisis even further. The expertise of regionally experienced anthropologists was required to address the specific complexities - including the human responses to - this crisis.

AAA and WCAA brought together a core network of anthropologists who have been active in the health, political, and economic sectors for several decades to bring their insights and experience to bear on public policy and programming. The conference identified critical actionable interventions that can be taken in the short-term to alleviate the severity of the crisis; and made recommendations to targeted organizations working in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for healthcare delivery, community health prevention, and systemic support services to local populations. Key target areas include: health systems strengthening, public health promotion, epidemic tracking and intervention, and issues of violence, security, food security, and stabilization. 

The two-day workshop included an initial forum during which attendees identified strategic priorities, an "open forum" supported with virtual participation and invited governmental, NGO, and media partners which highlighted the need for anthropological response, followed by the formation of working groups tasked with the development of actionable responses to the Ebola epidemic, including home-based caregiving tactics, quarantine, case identification, case tracking, food security, violence, social cohesion, mass communication, transportation, health systems, epidemiology, treatment center access, survivorship experiences, local capabilities and limitations, signals of fraying resilience, etc.  

Read the report Strengthening West African Health Care Systems to Stop Ebola: Anthropologists Offer Insights (PDF)

Conference Sponsors:
The Wenner-Gren Foundation
The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation
George Washington University

Conference Participants:
Sharon Abramowitz, University of Florida

Daniel J. Hoffman, University of Washington
Edward Liebow, American Anthropological Association

Steve Lubkemann, The George Washington University
Mary H. Moran, Colgate University

Susan Shepler, American University
Fodei J. Batty, Quinnipiac University

Adia Benton, Brown University
Catherine Bolten, University of Notre Dame

Sylvain Landry Faye, Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar
Kerry Fosher, United States Marines Corps' Center for Advanced Operational Cultural Learning

Janice Graham, Director of Technoscience and Regulation Research Unit, Dalhousie University
Koen Peeters Grietens, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium

Siba N'Zatioula Grovogui, John
Hopkins University
Robert Hahn, Center for Disease Control
Gwendolyn Heaner,
GKH Consultants
Doug Henry, University of North Texas
Barry Hewlett, Washington State University Vancouver

Fredline M'Cormack-Hale, Seton Hall University
Michael McGovern, University of Michigan

Fred Martineau, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Mary Elizabeth Moss, The Wenner Gren Foundation

Mark Nichter, The University of Arizona

Vinh-Kim Nguyen, University of Amsterdam

Anita Schroven, Max Planck Institute

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