Taking Life ‘Off Hold’: Pregnancy and Family Formation During the Ebola Crisis in Freetown, Sierra Leone

  • Jonah LiptonEmail author
Part of the Global Maternal and Child Health book series (GMCH)


The chapter describes a young couple attempting to start a family during the Ebola crisis in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The chapter demonstrates the ways that the onerous rules and regulations of the state of emergency—that seemingly relied on an underlying assumption that life could be put ‘on hold’ until the virus was defeated—made the processes of biological and social reproduction especially challenging to perform. For Freetown residents, however, family formation and social continuity remained a priority, and it is suggested that such responses were both central to surviving the crisis, yet were also reflective of the ongoing difficulties and dangers surrounding reproduction in a context with a weak formal health infrastructure and widespread material scarcity. The chapter is based upon 17 months of ethnographic fieldwork, immediately before and during the Ebola crisis.


Ebola outbreak Freetown Sierra Leone Pregnancy Family formation Reproduction State of emergency Anthropology West Africa Pregnancy Ceremony Marriage Stigma Wedding Childbirth Congo Town Family life 



The research for this chapter was generously supported by the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, the Halperin Memorial Fund, the Alfred Gell Memorial Studentship, and the ESRC Centre for Public Authority and International Development grant: ES/P008038/1.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Firoz Lalji Centre for AfricaLondon School of EconomicsLondonUK

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