Thursday, September 29, 2016

Learning lessons from the Ebola crisis

Fantastic to see my old friend and colleague from Sierra Leone, John Caulker, recently in Belfast. He spoke at an INCORE seminar on the topic of “Sustainable Peace in Post Ebola Sierra Leone”. He explained how community networks that the project John established called Fambul Tok (“Family Talk”) were used to help building community resilience in the face of the virus. Fambul Tok focuses on the  legacy of war and particularly on sharing stories about the past often from perpetrators of violence. John outlined how the community solidarity they built through that reconciliation project became instrumental in combating misperceptions and changing behaviour around Ebola. They are now looking to roll out a wider process of networks since the end of the epidemic. John was also critical of the international community who treated the epidemic as solely a medical problem failing to see that engagement of communities was needed to stop it and that communities also had to deal with the problems Ebola caused (inter-community tensions and stigma). In post-Ebola Sierra Leone problems still prevail in that funding support is for “Ebola victims” which singles people out rather than support whole communities. John believes that any interventions should be community-centric and he has proven the value of this in Fambul Tok.