Local Leaders, Frontline Workers Must Lead DRC Ebola Response
The Guardian: More of the same won’t solve Congo’s Ebola crisis — let locals lead
Susannah Mayhew, professor of health policy and systems at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and colleagues
“…On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the [Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)] a public health emergency of international concern. This raises the stakes and must lead to fundamental changes in the response. … [I]t is time for the WHO to step back and allow local leaders and frontline responders to lead the response. … Less emphasis must be put on the international response and more on local staff and community leaders. District authorities, traditional leaders, women’s groups, and even militia groups must be allowed to take the lead in shaping a culturally acceptable response to reduce hostility and improve access and outcomes. … Allowing local people to lead the response does not mean there is no role for the international humanitarian community. On the contrary, technical advice, response coordination, and an emphasis on human rights remain important contributions the international response can offer. But in DRC, … a ‘top-down’ approach is often seen as threatening, and needs to be avoided. … The affected population has to be patiently supported to find its own way. It also needs to be assigned a constructive role. … Above all, there is a need to trust in local common sense, once the nature of the epidemic and the infection risks it poses have been made clear…” (7/18).