As of early November, 2014, Liberia has had nearly 7,000 cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and more than 2,500 deaths. Many of the cases have occurred in the poorest and most densely populated areas of the capital city, Monrovia, but all counties have now been affected by EVD.
In an effort to measure the economic impact of EVD on Liberian households, the World Bank, with the Liberian Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services and the Gallup Organization, has conducted two rounds of mobile-phone surveys, in October and November 2014. Based on these results, it is clear that the EVD has substantially impacted the Liberian economy across all sectors of employment, in both affected and non-affected counties. In all, nearly half of the working population of Liberia is no longer working since the crisis began.
Those engaged in self-employment activities have been the hardest hit, in large part due to the closure of markets in which they operate. Before the crisis, over 30 percent of working household heads were self-employed—as of this latest survey, this is down to just above 10 percent.
The wage employment sector has also seen substantial job losses, with only about half of those originally surveyed still working since the crisis unfolded. The main reason cited by respondents is that their business or government office is closed; illness-related absence was only named by a small percentage of respondents.
After an initial downturn, the agricultural sector is showing the most resilience in the face of EVD. Rural areas have seen a substantial return to farming; the latest survey round coincided with the beginning of harvest season in many areas of the country.
These economic impacts have exacerbated existing issues, especially those related to food prices and food security. Imported rice prices have seen a huge jump—of nearly 40 percent over the average for October—but over 70 percent of respondents said that regardless of price, they do not have enough money to afford food. Many households have reduced the number of meals eaten, and restricted adult consumption in order to feed their small children, but still more than 90 percent of those surveyed worried that their household would not have enough to eat. With the arrival of the harvest, these figures have and will likely continue to trend downward, but they remain alarmingly high.
Whether directly affected by the virus or not, communities in every corner of Liberia are suffering from its consequences. Government mandated closures and other policies to contain and reverse the spread of EVD are in place across the country, and therefore the negative economic effects of EVD touch everyone. It will be essential to focus relief efforts not only in areas where the virus is active, which is crucial, but also in those remote counties where the population was already quite poor, food availability was scarce and is now worsening, markets are closed, and mobility is extremely limited. Please download the full document below.