Ebola virus disease is a fatal illness that often affects human beings as well as other primates. Ebola virus gets transmitted from wild animals such as porcupines and fruit bats to people. It took international partners and health officials close to three months in identifying the Ebola virus as a causative agent (Georgalakis, 2020). By the time it was discovered, the virus had spread and was firmly entrenched in Guinea. This essay uncovers the social factors unique to Guinea that contributed to the illness staying undetected.
Guinea is among the poorest nations in the entire world. It had also recently emerged from civil unrest and war that severely damaged health infrastructure. Besides, it led to the emergence of a crop of youth with no education. Transportation services, road systems, and telecommunications remain weak to date in Guinea. These weaknesses massively delayed transportation of the sick to health facilities and of samples to the test laboratories. The communication of reports, alerts, public information, and calls for help were significantly slowed (Wilkinson & Fairhead, 2017).
The borders of West Africa are very porous. They get coupled with a high degree of people moving across the border. The population mobility in West Africa is estimated to be seven times higher than in any other region worldwide. Movement is the factor driving mobility. People frequently travel in search of food or work (Idoiaga, 2017 et al.). Besides, several families living in Western Africa have relatives living in various countries. The population mobility impended control of Ebola in two ways. First, tracing contacts across borders is a difficult task. The outbreak responders could not cross the borders as quickly as the populations did. Secondly, as the condition improved in neighboring countries, more patients were attracted to the neighbor countries who were seeking treatment (Georgalakis, 2020). The movement rendered transmission channels challenging to break. Additionally, the practice of returning a deceased person's corpse to be buried in the rural village is a factor of movement in a population that is associated with a high risk of transmission (Wilkinson & Fairhead, 2017).
The adherence to traditional burial and funeral rites fuelled massive explosions of new cases of Ebola outbreaks. Medical Anthropologists have noted that burial and funeral practices in Guinea are considered high risk. According to data in Guinea's Ministry of Health, 60% of incidences get linked to the ancient funeral and traditional practices (Wigmore, 2015). Ebola preys on compassion; a cultural trait etched in the lives of Guinea citizens. The virus got spread through a network that binds communities together culturally. The culture dictates compassionate care to the sick and intense ceremonial care for their corpse when they die. Several doctors were infected with the virus whenever they rushed to assist, collapsing patients unprotected. Of importance to note is that, when cultural practices cross purposes with technical interventions, culture often emerges victorious. As such, efforts of control should work in harmony with culture (Wigmore, 2015).
In Guinea, there is a long history of traditional medicine. Before the outbreak of Ebola, the inaccessibility of government health services propelled poor patients to seek treatment from traditional healers. According to Idoiaga et al., (2017), several surges of the virus were traced back to contact with a conventional herbalist or their attendance to funerals. Besides, when the outbreak started, the high mortality rate fuelled the perception that health facilities were synonymous with death and contagion. Thus, most patients failed to follow the advice of seeking early treatment. Moreover, the health facilities often characterized by high walls and fences looked more of prisons than institutions of health care.
The outbreak of Ebola demonstrated a lack of international capacity to respond to a severe public health crisis effectively. The Guinea government and WHO became overwhelmed by unprecedented social factors associated with culture and the previous civil war. These factors, in combination with other logistical considerations, resulted in a very volatile that was hard to contain using conventional measures of control.
Idoiaga Mondragon, N., Gil de Montes, L., & Valencia, J. (2017). Understanding an Ebola outbreak: Social representations of emerging infectious diseases. Journal of health psychology, 22(7), 951-960.
Georgalakis, J. (2020). A disconnected policy network: The UK's response to the Sierra Leone Ebola epidemic. Social Science & Medicine, 112851.
Wigmore, R. (2015). Contextualizing Ebola Rumours from a Political, Historical, and Social Perspective to Understand People's Perceptions of Ebola and the Responses to It'. Work. Pap., Ebola Response Anthropol. Platf. http://www. ebola-anthropology. net/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Contextualising-Ebola-rumours from-a-political. pdf.
Wilkinson, A., & Fairhead, J. (2017). A comparison of social resistance to Ebola response in Sierra Leone and Guinea suggests explanations lie in political configurations, not culture. Critical Public Health, 27(1), 14-27.
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