Piot, who is now Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, spoke about the way state institutions in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, have been affected by the ongoing Ebola crisis. He highlighted the importance of coordinating international institutions, businesses, governments and the military in logistics and communication during this and future epidemics. Anthropological understanding was critical to managing the spread of infection; changing cultural norms and rituals in order to save lives was most effective when done in partnership with local leaders and the communities themselves.
Market forces, he pointed out, contributed to the seriousness of this Ebola crisis: it now appears the lack of tangible returns for research and development and crisis planning for medical emergencies led to slow responses and misdiagnosis. The number of deaths remained low in the early months of the outbreak, in comparison with maternal health and malaria, which resulted in health authorities underestimating the crisis.
The crucial lesson for businesses in dealing with future epidemics: "We must dare not only to make profit."
The discussion was moderated by Sian Hansen, Executive Director at the Legatum Institute.