Trust and Cooperation in the Fight Against Ebola

How can governments engender compliance during a health crisis when citizens do not trust them?

Inducing citizen compliance with government programs and mandates is particularly hard in weak states because these governments have little financial, material, or human capital to expend on coercing compliance. These states are thus faced with the challenge of encouraging citizens to comply through alternate mechanisms.

This problem took on a deadly form when Ebola swept across West Africa in early 2014. The governments of the three West African countries most impacted by Ebola—Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone—were forced to ask how they could elicit citizen compliance with Ebola preventive measures in a context where they had neither citizen trust nor the capacity to strictly enforce these measures.

To examine this question and to collect data on citizen needs to inform the humanitarian response, we partnered with Liberian NGO, Parley, to collect, analyze, and disseminate to government officials what was happening on the ground in Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia, during the epidemic. We conducted an in-person survey with households in December 2014 as well as two additional waves in March 2015, and June 2015 to provide data to inform governmental response and to understand the correlates of compliance with preventive measures during the crisis.


  • Parley