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Flattening the curve: voluntary association participation and the 2013–16 West Africa Ebola epidemic


To what extent does voluntary association participation correlate with reduced Ebola duration in districts of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone during the epidemic in West Africa in 2013-16? This study, the first cross-national quantitative analysis of Ebola outcomes across these countries, answers this question by investigating how social capital influences epidemic outcomes. Ebola virus disease struck along the borders of three countries with similar levels of human development as well as cultural practices, yet resulted in different outcomes. This study examines the role of social trust, political trust, voluntary association participation, religious organisation membership, and community meeting attendance in explaining international policy failure to reduce Ebola outcomes. Overall, in districts with a culture of raising issues and participating in voluntary and religious organisations, Ebola duration rates were lower. These findings have implications not only for health crisis response, but also for disaster response and the provision of international aid to civil society.

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