News articles and research showed a healthy criticism by citizens of the Liberian government’s response to Ebola, but it was unclear whether these opinions reflected the opinions of the average citizen in Liberia and whether they would sustain as the epidemic waned.
Afrobarometer, a pan-African nonpartisan research network, conducted a nationwide survey in Liberia near the end of the outbreak, in May 2015. They interviewed 1,200 Liberian adults to learn their opinions on government and the economy and their experiences navigating the Ebola epidemic. The findings of the survey are published in a new report, “Liberians on Ebola: Foreign aid most effective, but government performed well, is now better prepared.”
The Afrobarometer report teaches us how much the outbreak affected Liberians’ daily lives. For example, more than three-quarters of Liberians went without medicine or medical care at least once during the height of the outbreak. During the epidemic, many Liberians could not participate in social and communal events (89 percent), attend school (86 percent) or engage in income-generating activities (86 percent).
What were Liberians’ opinions about their government and government services? Fewer Liberians evaluated Liberian public hospitals and clinics as effective in providing care for Ebola victims (49 percent) when compared to treatment facilities run by international organizations (85 percent) and local nongovernmental organizations (73 percent).
Overall, most Liberians rated their national government (66 percent) and local governments (60 percent) as effective in controlling the epidemic. Perhaps more important going forward, two-thirds of Liberians said they were “very” or “somewhat” confident that their government has taken steps to be better prepared to fight a future Ebola outbreak. These figures are considerably high given the questions raised about whether the epidemic might weaken the Liberian state.
Another, unrelated research study also offers some optimism for the public health sector in Liberia. Repeat surveys with a sample of Liberian adults in the capital city Monrovia — conducted during the outbreak and then twice more after the outbreak — show that despite a significant decline in seeking health services during the crisis, health care utilization rebounded quickly after the crisis ended.
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