The Economic Impact of Ebola – November 2014 Report

The recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has generated global alarm, but while the policy response has, so far, rightly focused on the public health challenge, attention is now turning to the economic consequences which may add further to the damage caused by the disease itself.

The Government of Sierra Leone and its development partners must have valid, credible data and analysis to ensure that their policy responses are evidence-based and that corrective actions are effective and well targeted.

The International Growth Centre (IGC), as part of its mission to bring world-leading economic researchers to work in partnership with policymakers in Asia and Africa, is committed to providing the Government of Sierra Leone with accurate, timely evidence to support the development of effective policy responses.

As a first step, the IGC and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) have activated an existing, phone-based food-price-monitoring system to provide rapid feedback to the government on areas of critical need. The IGC and IPA are comparing this data to a baseline collected in 2012.

The latest round of market surveys took place in early October very shortly after all Sierra Leoneans were asked to stay at home for two days and after the introduction of new cordon restrictions in Port Loko, Moyamba, and Bombali. We find:

  • The number of traders selling basic food items has continued to fall in all districts. In Kailahun and Kenema (the first districts to be cordoned) there are 69% fewer domestic rice traders than in 2012 while the decline in newly cordoned areas is 29%.
  • Prices of basic food commodities at markets are not significantly higher in October than they were at this time in previous years, nor are they higher on average in cordon areas.
  • There are outliers where prices are much higher and there are more of these outliers than in normal years.
  • There are an increasing number of markets that are closed. In most of these cases traders report they are selling food from their homes. However, it will be important to monitor food security at the household level to ensure that food (at reasonable prices) is reaching households especially in remote locations.
  • Very preliminary data however suggests a new risk to food security or at least a potential delay in the rice harvests. Rainfall in September was much higher than it usually is at this time of year, but it did begin to decrease in October. This may negatively impact the rice harvest or at the very least delay the rice harvests.

Food security is not just a function of food availability and price but also of income. The reduction in the number of traders is suggestive of reductions in economic activity more generally which will depress income. Other data collection efforts are attempting to capture the decline in economic activity more generally. We will report on the results of this work as soon as they are available.

The full report is available via the download to the right.