5 years ago

The symbolic violence of ‘outbreak’: A mixed methods, quasi-experimental impact evaluation of social protection on Ebola survivor wellbeing

Despite over 28,000 reported cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the 2013–16 outbreak in West Africa, we are only beginning to trace the complex biosocial processes that have promoted its spread. Important questions remain, including the effects on survivors of clinical sequelae, loss of family and livelihood, and other psychological and social trauma. Another poorly understood question is what effect social protection and job creation programs have had on survivors’ wellbeing. Several clinical and social protection programs have been developed to respond to the needs of EVD survivors; however, little in the way of impact evaluation has taken place. We enrolled 200 randomly selected EVD survivors from Port Loko, Kenema, and Kailahun districts in Sierra Leone and stratified them based on the amount of instrumental social protection received post-discharge from an Ebola Treatment Unit. We then conducted a survey and in-depth interviews to assess participants’ wellbeing and food security. Social protection categories II-IV (moderate to extensive) were each significantly associated with ∼15–22% higher wellbeing scores compared to minimal social protection (p < 0.001). Only social protection category IV (extensive) was significantly associated with being food secure (adjusted odds ratio 6.11; 95% confidence interval, 2.85–13.10) when compared to minimal social protection. Qualitative themes included having a sense of purpose during the crisis (work and fellowship helped survivors cope); using cash transfers to invest in business; the value of literacy and life-skills classes; loss of breadwinners (survivors with jobs were able to take over that role); and combating the consequences of stigma. We conclude that, for EVD survivors, short-term social protection during the vulnerable period post-discharge can pay dividends two years later. Based on the empiric evidence presented, we discuss how terms such as “outbreak” and “epidemic” do symbolic violence by creating the illusion that social suffering ends when transmission of a pathogen ceases.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0277953617306822

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