HELP fight Ebola, word after word

Ebola: A Crisis of Communications Over and over again, aid workers report that people do not have the knowledge they need to contain this deadly disease. In a major survey in Sierra Leone (late September) UNICEF found:

  • 30% believed Ebola was transmitted via mosquitos; 30% believed it was an airborne disease
  • 20% believed treatment by spiritual healers is effective
  • 42% believed hot salt water baths are an effective cure

Aid workers know kissing deceased loved ones is a major cause of the epidemic (the virus is most potent right before and right after death). And yet the ritual continues. They also know epidemics can be reduced if the practice of eating bats (a delicacy in West Africa) is reduced or eliminated. Yet this knowledge is not effectively passed on to those who need it.


Language. No other recent crisis highlights more poignantly the gap between the languages of aid and the languages of the affected population.

The translation industry must help aid workers be more effective. That is our job. That is our role. Translation matters, especially with the Ebola epidemic.

English is the official language of Sierra Leone. But it is really only spoken in Freetown, a city relatively unaffected by the virus. The epidemic is centered in districts far from Freetown: most deaths are reported from Kailahun and Kenema (majority Krio speaking) districts, but Bombali (predominantly Krio and Mende speaking) and Port Loko (dominated by Temne speakers) districts have recorded significant increases in rate of transmission during September. In these parts of the country, 90 percent communicate using Krio.

Only 13% of women in Sierra Leone speak English even as a second language.


WHY? Go to these links to learn what TWB has done so far and what they are hoping to do with funding.

Using language to fight Ebola: What TWB has done so far

Using language to fight Ebola: What TWB needs to do with more funding

Please help by registering here as a volunteer translator or by donating here a small amount to help TWB’s work.




How translators can help stem the ebola crisis

TWBIgnorance about ebola can be as fatal as bodily contact with an infected person. The problem is that most information about how to prevent ebola is not available in the languages understood by the people at risk.

Read more:

If you want to help, you can now join Translators Without Borders, a non-profit organization with a mission to increase access to knowledge through humanitarian translations. 

More info about TWB: