Many West Africans continue to believe that Ebola is not a medical disease, but a supernatural curse.
The novelty of Ebola, coupled with its rapid death toll in recent months, has created an enabling environment for rumors, misinformation and superstition to spread among West Africans.
A new campaign is underway to convince West Africans that Ebola is a virus, and not a curse. Many in West Africa believe that the illness is the result of a curse and that those associating with the victim or the victim’s family will fall under the curse as well.
Because many West Africans see Ebola as a “curse” rather than a medical illness, health workers have to fight to get Ebola patients to come forward for treatment.
In addition to superstitions surrounding the supposed supernatural origins of Ebola, many West Africans do not trust the healthcare professionals attempting to address the epidemic.
Many fear that the doctors treating those suffering from Ebola will harvest the bodies of the dying for organs. Some even believe that doctors are killing Ebola patients once they are taken to the hospital.
Another common belief is that Ebola is a punishment for sexual promiscuity. This particular rumor, possibly due to a comparison between Ebola and HIV, has contributed to a strong stigma against Ebola survivors.
Due to the high fatality rate of Ebola, and the stigma associated with those suffering from Ebola, many people don’t see the point of seeking medical treatment. Communities tends to shun those with the disease because of its highly contagious nature.
Local traditional funeral customs also present a challenge to containing Ebola, as many involve washing and cleaning the dead before burial. Such cultural practices are very strong and it is difficult to convince individuals to give up symbolic rituals that have been in their family for generations.
A new animation created for use in West Africa aims to dispel the myths about how Ebola is spread. The video also promotes prevention of the disease.
Watch the animated video “Ebola: A Poem for the Living,” created by Chocolate Moose Media and mobile-health-education innovator iHeed in collaboration with United Methodist Communications.