Author: Ibrahim Sesay, December 13 2014 - I have been closely monitoring the various interventions that had been and are still being undertaken by the government of Sierra Leone and its stakeholders to address the dreadful Ebola epidemic in the country. These are my observations:
1. The Centralized Nature of Communication.
It is very glaring that all communications approaches as regards the epidemic are being handled by the newly created National Emergency Response of Ebola based in Freetown, Sierra Leone. They are not only serving as the only national hub for emergency response, but they are also responsible to put out information for sensitization programs. I think communication should be decentralized, and traditional leaders and local council structures should be incorporated. The community people themselves should be empowered through their local leaders to initiate ideas to communicate to their subjects and families. These traditional leaders still command enormous respect in their various localities and they are very influential agents for change in this epidemic.
2. Lack of culturally sensitive information
I was also disappointed when I saw the video that was produced by the United States Embassy in Sierra Leone as a way to sensitize Ebola-affected communities. While I think video is an appropriate channel to reach out to the local communities, I am also of the conviction that the languages used should be culturally sensitive. One cannot produce a video to sensitize a population that has more than 60% men and women who are illiterate and decided to use the English language to communicate as the main language in the video. How would the community people who are mainly vulnerable, but illiterate, comprehend the information contained in the video? It is a completely ineffective way to communicate in a situation like this. Let the communication strategists incorporate traditional languages in producing videos for educational purposes. Let the community people who are mostly vulnerable be effectively represented in these videos. With that, they would be able to immerse themselves with the messages in the videos. That is what effective communication is all about, especially in a crisis situation such as Ebola.
Communication and Development Studies
Graduate Students' Senator, Center for International Studies (CIS)
Social/Organizing Secretary, African Students' Union (ASU)
Athens, OH 45701, United States
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