Faire face à une maladie inconnue (Suluhu Working Paper 6)

Faire face à une maladie inconnue

La Riposte communautaire pré-Ebola à Mangina

Steward Muhindo

This is the second of four Suluhu Working Papers analysing the Ebola response in eastern Congo 2018–2020. You can download the full paper in French here. Below is the paper’s English abstract.

On 1 August 2018, an Ebola outbreak was declared in eastern Congo and would become the largest the country had ever recorded. However, what if the epidemic was much older than the date of its declaration? Mangina, the epicentre of the outbreak, had known cases for nearly three months before it was officially declared, and an international response effort was deployed. During that period, communities effectively used endogenous sanitary practices to stem the spread of Ebola. Using an ethnographic approach, this article traces the context at the onset of the epidemic, the socio-cultural representations that the community used to make sense of the disease, and the burial and treatment measures it developed at the community-level to deal with an unknown disease. The article shows how the population of Mangina developed mechanisms for prevention and care, and thus slowed down the spread of the epidemic. While it is undisputed that community engagement and ownership is essential for epidemic management, the Mangina case offers valuable lessons on how to foster inclusive, trusted and accepted strategies of epidemic response.

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