Authors: Sébastien Desbureaux, Audacieux Kaota, Elie Lunanga, Nik Stoop, Marijke Verpoorten

Working paper 2020.03

Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is currently facing two major infectious disease outbreaks: Covid-19 and Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). We highlight large differences in the socioeconomic impact of these two outbreaks. The data come from a phone survey that we conducted in May 2020 with 456 households and 144 small firms from a megacity and a rural commune in the province of Nord Kivu. While 3,000 EVD cases and 2,000 EVD deaths were confirmed since August 2018, self-reported impacts of EVD on revenues, access to food and behaviour were limited. In contrast, only 43 Covid-19 cases were reported as of May 30th but respondents reported sizable effects on livelihoods, especially in the large urban hub, and in part driven by substantial job losses. Our results show that different infectious disease outbreaks can have very different effects, largely unrelated to case numbers of the disease. Moderately virulent but highly transmissible viruses such as Covid-19 can trigger a steep economic downturn, especially in areas with high economic interconnectedness, reflecting both national and international policies to contain the pandemic.


  • Eastern DRC is currently facing outbreaks of Covid-19 and Ebola Virus Disease.
  • We highlight large differences in the socio-economic impact of these outbreaks.
  • Covid-19 has a much higher impact on the economy and (food) security.
  • This is due to Covid-19’s higher transmissibility and related containment measures.
  • The socio-economic impact of Covid-19 is largely unrelated to case numbers.

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