Sierra Leone

The Socio-Economic Impacts of Ebola in Sierra Leone - Round 2



  • Overall improvements in employment since November were driven by urban areas, however youth employment in Freetown has continuously declined
  • Women are seeing disproportionate economic impacts, mostly due to the fact that they are generally working in the sector most heavily impacted by Ebola
  • Nearly 70 percent of households report taking at least one action to cope with food shortages in the week leading up to the survey.


In an effort to collect timely and robust data on the impacts of Ebola, the Government of Sierra Leone, with support from the World Bank Group and in partnership with Innovations for Poverty Action, is conducting mobile phone surveys with the aim of capturing the key socio-economic effects of the virus. Since the proportion of the population that has been infected is small, the largest impacts on household welfare are expected to result from indirect effects of measures taken to restrict disease spread, and the general disruption to the economy caused by the outbreak.

As of April 8, 2015, Sierra Leone had reported more than 12,000 cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), and over 3,800 deaths. Recent World Health Organization (WHO) reports show that Sierra Leone has seen a decrease in new cases each week in the month leading up to April 5, and that week’s infection rate was the lowest seen since May 2014. This is cause for cautious optimism.

Round Two Results (April 2015)

There are signs of improvement in Sierra Leone, but the economic situation remains uneven. While there have been overall improvements in employment since November – driven by urban areas, youth employment in Freetown has continuously declined and the percentage of non-farm enterprises that are no longer operating has increased fourfold.

Stability of earnings has depended on the employment sector. Wage workers are earning around the same as they did pre-crisis, while those operating non-farm household enterprises are seeing revenues around 54 percent lower than in July-August 2014. Women in particular are affected, mostly due to the fact that they are generally working in non-farm household enterprises, the sector most heavily impacted by Ebola.

The Ebola virus itself must be eradicated- this is the number one priority. But its socio-economic side effects put the current and future prosperity of households at high risk. We must pay careful attention to those who are most vulnerable to both health and economic shocks, and ensure that they are supported throughout and after the crisis.

Ana Revenga
Senior Director, Poverty, World Bank Group

Food insecurity, which was high in Sierra Leone even before the crisis, continues to be a concern. Nearly 70 percent of households report taking at least one action to cope with food shortages in the week leading up to the survey. Coverage of social assistance thus far reflects the disease-specific targeting of the emergency response, suggesting efforts to reach the poorest will be key as the country moves toward recovery.

Delivery of social services has generally improved. The utilization of maternal care services has increased significantly since November: the percentage of women who gave birth in a clinic up from 28 percent to 64 percent and the percentage who received at least one prenatal visit up from 56 percent to 71 percent. National educational radio programs, working to bridge gaps created by long-term school closings, have reached nearly 72 percent of households with school-aged children, who reported that at least some children listened to these programs.

These high frequency surveys have been enormously helpful in bridging the gap between country-level growth analysis and the observations from those on the ground as part of the response. From a poverty perspective, we are particularly concerned about households being forced into coping strategies that may harm their long term prospects to improve welfare, and now we can follow this in almost real time.

Kristen Himelein
Poverty Economist, Liberia and Sierra Leone, World Bank Group

A third round of mobile phone data collection in Sierra Leone is planned for April 2015, to continue to track and highlight the most pressing areas of attention for policy makers as they move toward the economic recovery phase.

Read more about the socio-economic impacts of Ebola on Sierra Leone in the full report. Follow the World Bank Group's response to the crisis at #ebolaresponse.