Ebola survivor, Abdul Richard Kamara, of Sierra Leone hard at work.
From 2014-2016 PCI Media led efforts to reduce the spread of Ebola (#ISurvivedEbola and #RoadtoRecovery) in three countries.
Here’s what I learned about preventing transmission and what to do during and after the crisis:
1. Wash your hands.
It’s not sexy, or complicated but it works. During the 2014 Ebola Epidemic, Liberia, the first country to be declared and remain Ebola-free, put handwashing and sanitation stations at the entrance to high-traffic, public places. In the US, we have easy access to soap and water and should use them frequently. In cases where soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will do. Other measures, including social distancing, are part of the solution, but if our hands carry COVID-19, rates of infection will likely spike when social mixing returns to normal. If you still need to be convinced, behold the power of soap and water here.
2. Clear, Consistent, Actionable Communication is a Must.
During health emergencies, including this one, there is plenty of information shared that is inaccurate and counter-productive. People need consistent access to information from multiple sources in ways that resonate with them. It is critical that governments and the medical community use communication channels more strategically—beyond the press conference and scripted address—to provide technically accurate information that people can act on.
3. Elevate and Amplify Truly Trusted Sources.
Choosing credible messengers is fundamental to prevention communication. During the West Africa Ebola Epidemic, PCI Media’s #ISurvivedEbola campaign elevated the voices of regular people—healthcare workers, parents, and faith leaders—who had contracted the virus and lived to bear witness to the real possibility of survival. Because these people had no political or financial motive, their undeniable credibility cut through the panic, gave millions of people a reason to hope, and inspired them to adopt prevention measures.
5. Human Connection is Essential.
Like the Ebola virus, COVID-19 spreads through acts of human connection. Handshakes, hugs, and kisses—all signs of affection—are also sources of risk. But human connection is essential for mental health and for healing during times of crisis. The best communication responses to COVID-19 will speak from a place of loving respect and reinforce our collective bonds, because we will only overcome this pandemic together.
Our global expertise has proven impact. We know how to work with governments and medical professionals to strengthen communication responses during health emergencies – including our work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the Ebola crisis.
Learn more about our award-winning #ISurvivedEbola program at here.