Collaborating, Learning & Adapting Case Analysis: Deep Dive

Global Communities’ Ebola Response in Liberia

From 2014–2015, Ebola devastated communities in Liberia, overwhelming their fragile health care systems with at least 10,675 cases and 4,809 disease-related deaths (CDC, 2016). Global Communities, working with hundreds of communities in Lofa, Nimba and Bong counties on a USAID-funded program to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (IWASH) since 2010, was well placed to respond to the crisis. Using a community engagement approach grounded in the principles of collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA), Global Communities focused on reducing Ebola infections through safe burials and dead body management, education in Ebola-resistant hygiene and sanitation behaviors, and disease surveillance efforts.

COLLABORATING: They built upon existing collaborative networks and fostered relationships among community leaders, tribal chiefs and elders, local health care workers, and government officials to build community trust, strengthen Ebola response capacities, reduce violent resistance, and inspire relevant behavior change. Regular meetings with the donor, USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and international actors (e.g. Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, International Rescue Committee), promoted information sharing and coordination.

LEARNING: They conducted in-depth, half-day Community Meeting and Dialogue Sessions with these stakeholders in thousands of communities across Liberia to foster communication and information sharing. Their ongoing monitoring efforts tracked the effectiveness of different activities and provided weekly updates to local and international stakeholders. They also commissioned research to address evidence gaps in Ebola resistance practices.

ADAPTING: They drew upon stakeholder feedback loops, monitoring data, and technical evidence to rapidly and iteratively adjust activities, reallocate resources, and adapt approaches to address changing or community-specific needs and concerns. By May 2015, when Liberia was declared Ebola-free, local and international stakeholders credited Global Communities’ approaches and activities with effectively supporting community-led responses that helped end the crisis. Considerable evidence suggests that their CLA approach resulted in strong local ownership and increased national capacities for disease prevention.

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