The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is currently battling the second worst ever outbreak of Ebola, in the conflict-affected and densely populated provinces of North Kivu and Ituri. As of 4 August 2019, more than 2,763 people have been infected, and 1,849 people have died from Ebola virus disease (EVD).1 Twenty-six health zones in the country have registered cases, with almost 6,145,000 people in these health zones affected - more than half of the population in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. Active conflict and insecurity make this epidemic one of the most complex ever faced, with the disease anchored in areas with decades of endemic mistrust and violence.
Mercy Corps has been a key partner in the DRC’s Ebola response since 14 August 2018, responding with water, sanitation and hygiene, infection prevention control, and community engagement and mobilization, reaching almost 1,395,000 people. Mercy Corps’ experience of community mobilization and engagement is based on our response during the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Mercy Corps led a consortium of local and international partners in the largest community mobilization program in Liberia that reached more than 2.4 million people - half of the country's population, which ultimately helped to halt the spread of the disease in that country.
Mercy Corps’ research during the West Africa Ebola Crisis from 2014-2016 proved that any response to the Ebola outbreak must seek to save lives as well as livelihoods. Border closures and any measures that would see international trade suspended should be avoided at all costs.
This paper presents a brief summary of our learnings and experience from the West African epidemic on the economic impact of EVD outbreaks, and lays the foundation for future research into the DRC experience.
During the 2014-2016 West Africa epidemic, Mercy Corps conducted two market studies in Liberia and Sierra Leone. These findings, in particular the Liberia market assessment, contributed to the re-opening of markets - a key gain for economic stability of the most vulnerable households in EVD affected areas.
Mercy Corps’ research demonstrated that efforts to control Ebola can have severe, unintended consequences on already struggling local economies. In Liberia, where Mercy Corps’ analysis indicated that 66 percent of households reported a loss in income, dedicated efforts to share research findings were instrumental to the government’s decision to declare local marketplaces open after months of closures.
In Sierra Leone, results from Mercy Corps’ assessment highlighted that negative economic impacts of the crisis were significantly larger in local areas that had heavy restrictions on movement compared to those with fewer restrictions.