When Ebola first appeared in Liberia, many of the people in the country thought it was a scam crafted by the government to attract funds from international donors. This is reported by the US digital daily The Nation. The Nation’s sources, among whom foreign and Liberian activists, civil servants and medics, state that the belief that “this was a way the government could get money from the World Health Organization so that it could then put the money in its pockets” was and is widespread. (A belief that is not altogether without basis: in the case of AIDS, for example, states and project organisers have been accused of exaggerating prevalence rates in order to secure more donor funds).
After decades of mismanagement, Liberia’s citizens now generally don’t believe anything their government says. This meant that messages on how to avoid Ebola fell on deaf years, and secondly –and much more perilously- that health care efforts were seen as contributing to, rather than to fighting the disease. A student outreach coordinator, Pandora Hodge, is quoted as saying that “families have hid infected Liberians rather than bringing them in for treatment”. According to the World Health Organisation, similar government mistrust played a role in the recent killing of eight health workers in Guinea.