Distrust, skepticism, inaction and autocratic control defined the counterproductive crisis response at the national level. Nonetheless, this initial response shifted to the effective crisis leadership strategy of community engagement.
Legacy of Distrust
Years of conflict, corruption and autocratic rule created a legacy of distrust between the national governments and their citizens.51 Margret Chan, WHO Director-General stated, “Populations mistrusted the government, its health system, and its staff, and preferred to seek care from traditional healers. They did not welcome teams of foreign responders and resisted their presence, often violently.”52 Unfortunately, the first stage of response was skepticism and inaction, which allowed the latent distrust to fester.
Skepticism and Inaction
Medecins Sans Frontieres noted, “The governments of Guinea and Sierra Leone were initially very reluctant to recognise the severity of the outbreak, which obstructed the early response.”53 Research conducted in Liberia revealed that 81 % of survey respondents reported being “angry” at their government’s response efforts “mainly due to its perceived slowness”.54 When the governments did act, the tendency was toward autocratic control.