The Socio-Economic Impacts of Ebola in Sierra Leone


Daily life in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Dominic Chavez/World Bank

Latest Key Findings
  • Employment rates are returning to pre-Ebola crisis levels, but total working hours continue to lag
  • 2/3 of households continue to be food insecure but the use of strategies to cope with food insecurity has dropped, indicating improving conditions
  • 87% of rural and urban households that include at least one school-aged child report that they are in school


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.

of June 7, 2015, Sierra Leone had reported more than 12,900 cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), and over 3,900 deaths since the outbreak began. In recent months, substantial progress has been made, with a maximum of 15 new cases per week reported following a nationwide lockdown and information campaign at the end of March.

Round Three Results (May 2015)

The survey contacted a sample of 1,715 households during May, 2015, which represents 41 percent of the 4,199 households covered in the baseline, nationally-representative Labor Force Survey conducted in July and August 2014.

The economy continues to improve, but has yet to fully recover. Employment rates—including for the self-employed and youth in Freetown-- is returning to pre-Ebola outbreak levels. However, the hours that people work are still below baseline levels, especially in rural areas. Also, many households lack capital to reopen their business and non-farm household enterprises—nearly 1/3 of the country’s workforce—report lower revenues than before the Ebola crisis

Agriculture is showing signs of improvement. The 2014 harvest, completed between February and May 2014, was comparable to previous yields. Sales and hiring of seasonal labor indicate that rural commodity and temporary labor markets are returning to normal.

" Sierra Leone is working tirelessly to get to zero cases of Ebola. Our job has to be not only to support the country in eradicating Ebola, but also to look toward economic recovery and toward mitigating the short-, medium-, and long-term impacts of the crisis on the social and economic wellbeing of all Sierra Leoneans. "

Francis Ato Brown

Country Manager, Sierra Leone, World Bank Group

Food insecurity, which was high in Sierra Leone even before the crisis, continues to be a concern. Approximately 2/3 of households surveyed continue to be food insecure, but the use of individual coping strategies to mitigate food insecurity has decreased, pointing to improving conditions. 

Use of basic social services continues to increase. Use of maternal health care services has increased—the share of households reporting birth in a hospital or clinic increased from 64% in January and February 2015 to 89% in May. A majority of school-aged children have returned to school. 87% of rural and urban households that include at least one child aged between 6 and 17 report that they are in school. It is important to note, however, that the findings on usage of public services are likely more representative of better-off households, and that the actual nationwide percentages are probably lower. 

" With three rounds of surveys and data analysis completed, we have been able to track and pinpoint the most urgent socioeconomic concerns for many households in Sierra Leone. The impacts of the Ebola crisis are likely to linger well into the future, and economic recovery will hinge on understanding which sectors and groups need the most support to get back on their feet.  "

Kristen Himelein

Poverty Economist, Liberia and Sierra Leone, World Bank Group

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.

Media Inquiries

Maura K. Leary
Washington, DC