Pandemic Preparedness: Local and Global Concepts and Practices in Tackling Disease Threats in Africa

start date
2 January 2019
end date
22 January 2023

Since the devastating outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2014-15, concern about deadly diseases with pandemic potential has grown significantly. As a result, the concept of disease ‘preparedness’ has shot to prominence in global health policy.

However, local people’s understandings of these diseases and their knowledge in preparing for them is often ignored. This research will highlight the importance of local perspectives to disease response which have not been fully recognised and supported in global discourses so far. The project will ask who is being prepared, for what, and by whom?

The research examines ‘preparedness from below’ – the understandings and practices of communities through which they anticipate and manage disease threats on a daily basis. In particular, global and local approaches might offer quite different ways of addressing three key themes which are central to our inquiry:

  • Risk and uncertainty
  • Knowledge and information
  • Agency and authority

Research will be conducted on preparedness at three levels: global, regional, and local, linking to established institutional architectures and practices as well as exploring local level responses to everyday uncertainties.

The local-level fieldwork will be conducted in Sierra Leone and Uganda. It will involve oral histories, participatory research and ethnographic fieldwork conducted in four sites, which will track how people currently understand and deal with health events and threats.

We will track interconnections through interviews with global, regional and national actors – how particular ideas, frameworks, and assumptions travel and flow both ‘upwards’ and ‘downwards’,. We aim to identify entry points and pathways for connecting global, intermediate and local ‘assemblages’ in ways that build on, enhance and support the legitimacy and agency of communities’ ‘preparedness from below’.

Partner organisations include:


Image of Annie Wilkinson
Annie Wilkinson

Research Fellow

Image of Catherine Grant
Catherine Grant

Research Officer

Image of Esther Mokuwa
Esther Mokuwa

Visiting Researcher

Image of Hayley MacGregor
Hayley MacGregor

Research Fellow

Image of Kelley Sams
Kelley Sams

Visiting Researcher

Image of Melissa Parker
Melissa Parker

Professor of Medical Anthropology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Grace Akello, Gulu University, Uganda
Paul Richards, Njala University, Sierra Leone
Alice Desclaux, Centre Régional de Recherche et de Formation à la prise en charge de Fann (CRCF, Senegal)
Khoudia Sow, Centre Régional de Recherche et de Formation à la prise en charge de Fann (CRCF, Senegal)
Frederick Martineau, LSHTM



Epidemic Response Anthropology Platform

The Epidemic Response Anthropology Platform (ERAP) is a resource to support a humane and effective response to epidemics. The aim of the platform is to promote evidence on the social dimensions of epidemics in different contexts and to improve the way this evidence is used in response planning.


Ebola Response Anthropology Platform

Anthropologists from around the world providing advice on how to engage with crucial socio-cultural and political dimensions of the Ebola outbreak and build locally-appropriate interventions.

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