How responding to Ebola made communities stronger

When asked about CARE’s program in response to Ebola, one woman told us, “This has made us stronger and less worried...” Find out why.

In Sierra Leone, 91% of people are satisfied with the CARE response to Ebola—both in the immediate aftermath, and then in long-term recovery. It’s what a lot of people call Nexus programming—emergency response that also builds for the long term. In the words of one woman, “This has made us stronger and less worried since we know there is always a place to [get] money when it comes to unforeseen eventuality.”

The Rapid Ebola Social Safety Net and Economic Recovery project ran from 2015-2017 with $4.5 million from USAID’s Food for Peace project. It reached nearly 50,000 people with cash transfers of 30 a month, training on VSLAs, income opportunities, and farming techniques.

What have we accomplished?

  • People eat more, better food: 84% of people say they are eating more meals a day after the program than before, and they are more than twice as likely to eat balanced diets.
  • Families can cope better: The number of people who had to resort to drastic measures (like begging or child labor) to survive was cut in half.
  • Incomes have gone up: 66% of people say they have higher incomes now, and they have 25% more money to spend on food.
  • Savings are a reality again: The Ebola crisis mostly destroyed savings, as groups used their savings to deal with the disaster. By 2017, people were more than 4 times more likely to save than they were at the height of the crisis. 95% of people were also able to save seeds to they can plant crops next year—something no one could do during the crisis.
  • Families are confident to face the future: 79% of people say that they don’t need the cash transfers anymore, because the investments they made using the cash and increased income has set them up for sustainable futures. As one person said, “The cash transfer program has indeed prepared us well to respond to any unexpected problem that we may face in the future.”

How did we get there?

  • Give people cash: The program gave each family $30 a month to spend on whatever they needed. At the beginning, families spent most of this money on food, but as the crisis stabilized, they started to invest more in schooling for their kids, agriculture, and activities that would earn them money. 89% of people invested some of their money in production.
  • Build a feedback loop: The communities got involved in selecting program recipients in partnership with the government safety net program. They had hotlines to call when there were problems, and the project made changes based on feedback—like how hard it was for elderly people to reach distribution sites. Because they saw CARE responding to their concerns, the people had a lot more confidence in the process.
  • Buy local: The project gave out seed vouchers and organized fairs that promoted local seed varieties and vendors so farmers could spend their money in local markets and get high-quality products.
  • Get people information and tools: The project hosted trainings on farming, VSLAs, and income-generating activities. People who got this training were twice as likely to be involved in economic activities as those who only got cash.
  • Be efficient and flexible: The project originally spent over $70,000 on a mobile money transfer system that didn’t work for the communities we were serving. In the second phase, they saved $39,000 by going back to more traditional distributions in places without mobile coverage.

Want to learn more?

Check out the final evaluation, or read USAID’s meta-evaluation of several cash projects from Food for Peace, including CARE’s.