Emerging Epidemics: Improving Preparedness in Burkina Faso

The overall ambition of the research project is to identify key elements for a smart foresighting system for early detection of infectious diseases in order to reduce the risk of new international pandemics.


This is a cross-disciplinary project, including anthropology, epidemiology and data science. We will generate new knowledge about local perceptions of contagion and caring practices, identify relevant disease indicators and communication channels and identify potentials for improved use of m-Health for early detection and reporting.




The research project is organized in four work packages.

  • In workpackage 1 we will study local perceptions and practices of disease and care-giving.
  • Workpackage 2 identifies locally relevant disease indicators and methods for identification of early warning signals at community level.
  • In workpackage 3 we plan to analyze patterns and means of communication using ICT.

Workpackage 4: Inputs from workpackage 1-3 will be used to develop a smart foresighting system, which will be pilot tested in workpackage 4.






The main outputs of the project will be a total of four PhD degrees (three from Burkina Faso and one from Denmark), a minimum of 15 publications, five policy briefs, two regional and one national stakeholder workshops, an international conference as well as tools and recommendations for an improved community based system for early detection of infectious diseases.

Pia Juul Bjertrup successfully defended her PhD theses entitled "(In)visible Epidemics: Negotiating Hierarchies and the Qest for Recognition in Burkina Faso” on 20. December, 2022.

Hamidou Sanou successfully defended his PhD thesis entitled "Usage des technologies de l’information et de la communication (TIC) dans le système de surveillance des maladies à potentiel épidémique au Burkina Faso. Logiques d’appropriation et interactions sociales" on 7 March, 2023 at the University Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Cheick Omar Diallo successfully defended his PhD thesis entitled “Détection précoce des événements et symptômes précurseurs des maladies à potentiel épidémique au Burkina Faso” on 5 June, 2023 at the University Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.



Samuelsen, H., & Toé, L. (2021). Covid-19 Temporalities: Ruptures of Everyday Life in Urban Burkina Faso. Medicine Anthropology Theory8(1), 1-21. https://doi.org/10.17157/mat.8.1.5104

Ilboudo, David & Wêndé-M’minèré Léon Nitiema: Facteurs expliquant le recours aux mesures de prévention du coronavirus en milieu rural au Burkina Faso », Annale de l’Université Joseph KI-ZERBO – Série A, vol. 029, Décembre 2020, ISSN : 2424-7529 attached

Ilboudo, David : - « Conditions de la transmission de la maladie à coronavirus dans la ville de Ouagadougou : connaissances et comportements des acteurs face aux risques sociaux et biologiques », LARISS, Editions CEPRODIF, Presses en ligne et papier, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, ISBN : 978-2-84775-318-9 – attached

Samuelsen, H. (2022). Fragile Relationships: Elusive Encounters with Public Services in rural Burkina Faso. In W. Adebanwi (Ed.), Everyday State and Democracy in Africa: Ethnographic Encounters (pp. 384-402). Ohio University Press.

Diallo, C. O., Schioler, K. L., Samuelsen, H., & Drabo, K. M. (2022). Information System as part of epidemic management in Burkina Faso: from plan to reality (Field Findings). BMC Public Health, 22(1), [1726]. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-14072-1

Pare Toe, L., & Samuelsen, H. (2021). Balancing professional autonomy and authority at the margins of a fragile state: Front-line health workers' experiences in Burkina Faso. Global Public Health, 16(7), 1099-1110. https://doi.org/10.1080/17441692.2020.1825768

Samuelsen, H., & Paré Toé, L. (2020). Corona krisen øger mistilliden til regeringen i Burkina Faso. Samfundsøkonomen, 2020(4), 77-85. https://doi.org/10.7146/samfundsokonomen.v0i4.123564

lboudo S. D. Olivier et Toé L. Défiance-confiance des agents de santé au cœur de l’offre sanitaire publique en milieu rural au Burkina Faso, 2020. Journal Africain de Communication Scientifique et Technologique. Série Sciences Sociales et Humaines.

Bjertrup, P. J., & Bambara, L. (2022). Er Covid-19 Elitens Sygdom? Fortællinger om ulighed under covid-19 pandemien i Burkina Faso. Tidsskriftet Antropologi, 65.

Bjertrup, P. J. (2021). (In)Visible Disease: Motions and Emotions Engendered by Papers and Diagnostics of People Accessing Healthcare in Burkina Faso. MAT Medicine Anthropology Theory, 8(3), 1-20. https://doi.org/10.17157/mat.8.3.5103

Diallo, C. O,. K. L. Schioler, K. M. Drabo, H. Samuelsen (2023): Stakeholder’s perception of the health information system performance in Burkina Faso. PanAfrican Medical Journal. Vol. 44, Article 155.

Diallo C. O, Bonzi D. J. V, Drabo K. M. Epidemiological aspects and management of Covid-19 disease in Tenkodogo Health District (Burkina Faso) (2023). Revue Africaine de Sciences Sociales et de la Santé Publique. Vol. 5 No 1 (2023): Janvier - Juin 2023.



Press coverage on the project and in relation to epidemics and Covid-19

1 February 2020
Kristeligt Dagblad (newspaper): Front page interview with quote about Covid-19 in relation to Africa.

28 February 2020
Kristeligt Dagblad (newspaper): Comment piece (authored by Pia Juul Bjertrup og Helle Samuelsen) on how Covid-19 could produce even more inequality due to weak health systems in a number of countries.

29 February 2020
DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation): Online article with quote concerning Covid-19 and Afrika – in relation to the first case in Nigeria.

28 February 2020
TV2 News (national broadcaster): News report, interviewed about the first case of Corona in Nigeria.

10 March 2020
Berlingske Tidende (newspaper): Interview with quote (p. 4) on how the pandemic put pressure on the Danish health care system.

11 March 2020
DR4 København (regional radio, Danish Broadcasting Corporation): Interview on how the pandemic put pressure on the Danish health care system,

11 March 2020
Altinget (online media): Interview with quote about Corona in Afrika (why so few cases?)

12 March 2020
BT (newspaper): Interview after the press meeting with the Danish Prime Minister with quote.

23 March 2020
Berlingske Tidende (newspaper): Comment piece (authored by Pia Juul Bjertrup and Helle Samuelsen) commenting on the importance of trust in authorities during pandemics (Denmark versus fragile states).

24 March 2020
P1 Orientering (national radio, Danish Broadcasting Corporation): On Covid-19 in Africa.

31 March 2020
Kristeligt Dagblad (newspaper): interview with quote on Coronavirus and children.

2 April, 2020
TV2 News (national broadcaster): On the government’s support package to Africa.

3 April 2020
Information (newspaper): Interview with quote (article focusing on Africa).

3 April 2020
Weekendavisen (weekly newspaper): Interview with quote (article on increased need for development assistance after the pandemic).

8 April 2020
Videnskab.dk/Forskerzonen (online media): 1½ hours live chat with a number of different questions about popular reactions to the pandemic.

10 April 2020
Videnskab.dk (online magasine): Article with quote from the chat.

2 May 2020
Helsingør Dagblad (local newspaper): Commentary (on the demand for a plan for how to open up society after lockdown).

29 July 2020
TV2 online (national broadcaster): Interview concerning use of facemasks in Denmark.

29 July 2020
Jyllandsposten (newspaper): Short interview concerning ’multiple crises’.

29 August 2020
DR-TV avisen (television news, Danish Broadcasting Corporation): Interview commenting on research on social behaviour published by Imperial College. Also radio.

22 January 2021
DR (radio programme, Danish Broadcasting Corporation): 'Sygt Nok' (Sick enough): Participation in expert panel on the increase of other epidemics during Covid-19.

22 March 2022
Sjællandske Medier (regional newspaper) – Commentary 'What have we learned from the Covid-19 pandemic'.



Name Title Image
Dan Wolf Meyrowitsch Associate Professor Billede af Dan Wolf Meyrowitsch
Helle Samuelsen Associate Professor Billede af Helle Samuelsen
Ingemar Johansson Cox Professor Billede af Ingemar Johansson Cox
Karin Linda Schiøler Associate Professor, Head of Section Billede af Karin Linda Schiøler

External researchers

  • Pia Juul Bjertrup, PhD fellow, Department of Anthropology
  • Associate Professor, Gabin Korbeogo, University Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Ouagdougou, Burkina Faso
  • Associate Professor, Maxime Drabo, University Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Ouagdougou, Burkina Faso
  • PhD fellow, Cheick Omar Diallo, University Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Ouagdougou , Burkina Faso
  • PhD fellow, Hamidou Sanou, University Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Ouagdougou, Burkina Faso
  • Associate Researcher, Lea Paré Toé, IRSS, Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
  • PhD fellow, Huguette Tynou, IRSS, Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso.
  • Postdoc, David Ilboudo, Université Thomas Sankara, Burkina Faso.

Funded by

The research project is funded by Danida grant no. 17-06 KU 

Project Leader: Helle Samuelsen. 
Period: 2018-2024.

Project partners:
Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen.
Department of Public Health and Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen.
IRSS, Burkina Faso, Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo de Ouagadougou.

Recently in the press

14. oktober 2023: Associate Professor Helle Samuelsen participated in the radio program 'Fremtiden på P1'. It discusses the epidemics of the future, in which viruses are now lurking around, and what we can take away from the Covid-epidemic seen from an epidemiological and anthropological perspective. The epidemiologist Lone Simonsen is also participating in the program.

Listen to the program on DR's website in Danish).

Recent PhD defense

Cheick Omar Diallo at his PhD defense.

Cheick Omar Diallo at his PhD defense in Ouagadougou on 5 June 2023. With Professor Gabin Korbeogo and members of the assessment committee. See also 'Output'.