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Table 3 Lessons learned for health systems strengthening and emergency response

From: “We and the nurses are now working with one voice”: How community leaders and health committee members describe their role in Sierra Leone’s Ebola response

1. Community leaders, volunteers, and health committee members can perform vital functions during public health emergencies
2. The importance of community leaders, volunteers, and health committee members rests not only in their capacity to carry out manual labor and administrative tasks, but also in their capacity to mediate between communities and the health system
3. Positive pre-existing relationships between communities and health workers are a key enabler for community volunteers to engage in difficult tasks during crises, particularly tasks that violate social norms (e.g. burial rituals)
4. During emergencies, the resilience and capacity of community leaders, volunteers, and health committee members can be supported by ensuring clarity among stakeholders about compensation, reassuring community workers that they are not forgotten, providing trainings and equipment, and creating spaces for dialogue between health workers and community workers