Words of Relief – Ebola Crisis Learning Review

From February 2014 to February 2015, West Africa was stricken by Ebola. The three most affected countries were Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

Text by Marleen Laschet


Words of Relief – Ebola Crisis Learning Review

The crisis faced serious communication challenges. Over 90 languages are spoken in the area and over 50 percent of the adult population is illiterate. Information materials provided by aid agencies were largely in written form and mainly in English, yet in Sierra Leone, only 13 percent of women speak English. Additionally, there are few professional translators for the West African languages and there was limited Internet connectivity.

When trying to control an epidemic, the availability of material in languages that people understand can reassure communities, increase trust in aid workers and effectively promote behavior change. Information in the wrong language can lead to mistrust as well as serious misconceptions on how to treat the disease and how it is contracted. In Sierra Leone, 42 percent of the respondents to a UNICEF survey in August 2014 – months after the epidemic began – ...