Ebola damaging economies of two countries in West Africa

Tuesday 13 January 2015

At present, nearly half of Liberian household heads remain out of work; employment and food insecurity major problems

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Two new reports, released by the World Bank Group, have said that the socio-economic impacts of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone are far-reaching as both the countries continue to experience job losses. The reports are based on mobile surveys carried out by the international bank and its partners.

Following the economic slowdown, triggered by reduction in jobs, many households have been forced to take short-term actions to cope with the changing socio-economic landscape. For example, two-third of the people surveyed in Liberia have said that they were not able to purchase enough rice to meet their needs in the previous two weeks, and nearly 80 per cent of those cited a lack of money as the main reason.

At present, nearly half of Liberian household heads remain out of work. In Sierra Leone, an estimated 9,000 wage workers and 170,000 self-employed workers outside of agriculture are no longer working since the July/August 2014 baseline.
 
Women in both the countries are particularly vulnerable as the labor market stagnates and there are concerns about farmers’ ability to organise work teams given Ebola fears, thus reducing harvests. Among the households that had finished their harvest, over 80 per cent reported that their harvest was smaller this year than last as they could not arrange work in groups due to the Ebola virus. Food insecurity persists across the country, and households continue to report not having enough money to afford rice, regardless of price. Women in the Ebola-affected as well as other economies of the African continent are particularly vulnerable as the labour market stagnates, since they work disproportionately in the hard-hit non-farm self-employment sector.

“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,” says Kristen Himelein, the World Bank Group’s poverty economist for Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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