Impact and Implications of the Ebola Crisis

Published on 12 December 2014

The current Ebola outbreak is concentrated in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea: countries with limited state capacity which are recovering from political instability and conflict (Piot, 2014, p. 2; Muiderman, 2014, p. 2). The indirect consequences of the Ebola epidemic and its disruption of public and private services threaten the lives and livelihoods of more than 22 million people in Ebola-affected areas (ACAPS, 2014a, p. 1). As well as its immediate impact on people’s health, the crisis is likely to have longer-term socio-economic and political consequences which present risks to the countries’ development and stability (Piot, 2014, p. 2).

This rapid literature review looks at the available evidence on the impact of the Ebola crisis on four key areas: political, economic, social, and security. These impacts will have implications for post-Ebola development and stability. The review has a particular focus on Sierra Leone. The literature uncovered was primarily concerned with the current and possible impact of the ongoing crisis on the economic and health sectors, as well as food security. Less information is available about the impact on the political and security situations (expert comment). The literature engaged more with the impact of the Ebola crisis rather than with its implications, and very little was concerned with the post-Ebola situation. One expert raised concerns with the data and methodology of some of the recent reports about the impact of the crisis, although they note that it is clear that Ebola and the response to it are having an impact on all these sectors (expert comment).

The extent of the Ebola crisis’ impact on the political, economic, social, and security sectors will depend in part on how the crisis develops. Two future scenarios developed by the World Bank are outlined below. A rapid containment will have less of an impact than if the outbreak continues to grow in 2015.

  • Political impact and implications: Initial analysis suggests that government’s poor management of the Ebola crisis has generated frustrations and exposed citizens’ lack of trust in their governments. The Ebola crisis is likely to play a very political role in the next election in Sierra Leone and there are predictions that the opposition will win as a result.
  • Economic impact and implications: The economic impact of the Ebola crisis includes loss of gross domestic output, threat to food security, fall in employment and livelihoods, and decline in foreign investment. Growth has slowed in Sierra Leone and is likely to fall even further. Household income has fallen, financial reserves are being used up and large numbers of people are now food insecure. Some businesses are benefiting from the local procurement by the international Ebola response.
  • Social impact and implications: Progress in human development is likely to be reversed due to the impact of the Ebola crisis on health, education and standard of living. Quarantines have had a disproportionate impact on the elderly, the poor, and people with chronic illness or disability. Those affected by Ebola or working to combat it (such as healthcare workers and burial teams) face stigmatisation. Social cohesion is also being weakened by ‘do not touch’ policies . Women and children are particularly affected by the crisis. Almost 2 million children have not been attending school in Sierra Leone due to school closures, which means loss of education and increased risks of drop-out, teen pregnancy and child labour. Health systems have collapsed and non-Ebola related mortality is increasing.
  • Security impact and implications: Ebola poses a threat to the safety of the countries affected by the current outbreak. There have already been riots and tensions are rising. The diversion of development spending, especially for roads, energy, building schools and hospitals, to the Ebola response, could have a negative impact on peace dividends.


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Brigitte Rohwerder

Research Officer

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Rohwerder, B.


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Sierra Leone

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