Ebola anthropology: from real-time social science to building future local capacity

Professor Melissa Leach is Director of the Institute for Development Studies, and with her research team won the 2016 Celebrating Impact Prize for Outstanding International Impact.

This is the third in a series of blogs delving further into the research behind the impact awards. Applications for the 2017 Celebrating Impact Prize opened this week.

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I was truly delighted when our team won the ESRC’s Outstanding International Impact award in 2016 for our work during the 2014-15 Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Our Ebola Response Anthropology Platform (ERAP) and related Ebola: Lessons for Development initiative showed how and why long-term social science understandings, mobilised rapidly in real-time, could transform an epidemic response. Our work focused on issues like the social significance of burials, the value of community knowledge, practices and institutions, and contextualising the violence being experienced by health workers. Continue reading

Rio 2016 Olympics: Understanding outbreaks like the Zika virus

Ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics, there has been much fear over the Zika virus epidemic currently ongoing in Brazil. High profile sport stars such as basketballer Stephen Curry and cyclist Tejay van Garderen, as well as seven of the world’s best golfers, have quoted the virus as a reason to pull out of the Games.

Here ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize winner Professor Melissa Leach, Director at the Institute of Development Studies (and former Director of the ESRC-funded STEPS Centre), shows how social science can reveal vital socio-cultural dimensions and stories to help responses to epidemics such as the Zika virus.

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Zika virus is the latest emerging infectious disease epidemic to hit global headlines. First identified in Uganda in 1947 and transmitted mainly by the Aedes aegyptii mosquito, the virus is now spreading rapidly across Latin America and beyond.

Many cases just have flu-like symptoms, but the virus is also blamed for complications such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and, most significantly, a dramatic upsurge in birth defects, including thousands of cases of microcephaly in Brazil since October 2015. Continue reading