Mats Utas, Associated Professor, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Uppsala University

Ebola and the people resisting it

Nobody seemed to be aware of the fact that several strains of Ebola virus have been present in the Mano River Region (Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia) at least since the 1980s. As Ebola spread like a wildfire in the region during the summer of 2014 experts of too many trades focused on how it got there, and where it risked going, instead of how to efficiently deal with it. The three Mano River states showed their tragically limited capacity to cater to the plague, the WHO inefficient and paralyzed and the rest of the world ignorant. Ordinary MRR citizens who had never heard of the existence of Ebola found information hard to believe and from the onset resisted actions of the governments, and the international community. When the world finally reacted it was more than six months into the epidemic. It was getting out of hand; risking a global crisis. In Sweden it was only when internationally renowned Hans Rosling appeared in media that things started happening. I have since been involved in efforts by using my cultural and long-term contextual knowledge to teach Swedish medical staff being employed in the region. In this seminar I will discuss the usefulness of anthropological knowledge in the Ebola crisis.

All seminars in the series.