The INEE website has moved to You are currently viewing the static archive of the former INEE website, established in May 2019.

Promoting access to quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by crisis

EiE Crisis Spotlight: Ebola - West Africa

Last updated: March 2015

Location of Crisis

West Africa: Primarily Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.


Brief Description of the Situation

The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak is unprecedented in scale and geographic reach with a higher caseload than all other Ebola crises combined. The outbreak, which began in March 2014, has affected six countries in West Africa, with 99.7% of cases occurring in the countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. The outbreak has the potential to have immediate and longer-term social, economic, development and security consequences in the region.

(Source: UNMEER, WHO)

Timing of Crisis

The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak started in Guinea in March 2014. On 8 August, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Since that time, the outbreak spread to the neighbouring countries of Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Cases were also identified in Nigeria, Mali and Senegal but as a result of effective surveillance, isolation and containment measures and political and community engagement, all three countries have been declared Ebola-free (passing two consecutive quarantine periods or 42 days without any new cases) – Nigeria and Senegal since late October and Mali since mid-January. To prevent the outbreak from further spreading to neighbouring countries, IFRC and other NGO and UN agencies including UNICEF have been supporting the development of emergency plans of action and  preparedness activities in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, CAR, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo.

On 31 July, the World Health Organization together with the governments of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia launched an initial appeal and Ebola Virus Disease response plan for US $100 million for the period of July through December 2014 as part of an intensified international, regional and national campaign to bring the outbreak under control. On 28 August, WHO issued a “roadmap” with the intent to scale up the international response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. By September the first-ever UN emergency health mission, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), was set up to respond to immediate needs and to coordinate the response. To better reflect the evolving nature of the crisis, the appeal was revised and UN agencies jointly launched an appeal for $1.5bn for the first six month period, October 2014 to March 2015. As of December 17, $1.2 billion had been directly raised against this appeal. This leaves a funding gap of $300 million. If the outbreak continues at its present rate, the UN estimates that a further $1.5 billion will be needed for the period April to September 2015. An Ebola Recovery Assessment is currently underway in the three most affected countries. The aim of the Assessment is, together with governments, to assess needs in critical areas that will contribute to early and medium-term economic and social recovery in the post-Ebola era. The Assessment report will be presented during the spring meetings of the World Bank.

(Source: UNOCHA: Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak: Overview of Needs and Requirements, WHO)

Affected Populations

According to UNOCHA’s Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak: Overview of Needs and Requirements published in September 2014, an estimated 22.34 million people live in areas within Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where active EVD transmission had been reported, with an estimated 4.29 million people living in areas where twenty of more fatalities have been reported. An estimated 8.5 million children and youth under 20 years old are living in areas affected by Ebola. Of them, 2.5 million are under the age of five.

A total of 23,969 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of EVD have been reported as of March 3, 2015 (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States). There have been 9,807 reported deaths. For the first time since the week of 26 May 2014, Liberia reported no new confirmed cases the week of March 3rd. Transmission remains widespread in Sierra Leone and new cases have been reported in Guinea so while a great deal of progress is being made in stemming he spread of the disease, it is important that we all remain vigilant.   

The total number of confirmed and probable cases is similar in males and females. Compared with children (people aged 14 years and under), people aged 15 to 44 are approximately three times more likely to be affected. People aged 45 and over are nearly four times more likely to be affected than children. People aged 45 and over (125 reported cases per 100 000 population) are almost four times more likely to be affected than are children.

(Source: WHO Ebola Response Situation report 4 March 2015)


Impact on Education

The Ebola outbreak has had a profound effect on the lives of children across the affected countries. In the Ebola crisis, many children are exposed to extremely stressful and potentially traumatic experiences. With an estimated 8.5 million children and youth under 20 years old, 2.5 of whom are under the age of five, living in areas affected by Ebola, children are not only facing the risk of exposure to EVD but are also being significantly affected in numerous other ways. Some 16,600 children are registered as having lost one or both parents, or their primary caregivers to Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Others have suffered stigma and discrimination at the community level because of their family’s or their own illness and have lost friends and routine activities so important to the healthy development of a child.

Before the Ebola outbreak, the affected countries had some of the lowest education indicators globally - just 58% of children attended primary school in Guinea; 74% in Sierra Leone; and 34% in Liberia (Childinfo 2014.). The impact of prolonged school closures in a region with some of the lowest education indicators in the world is dire and the outbreak has negative consequences on the availability of teachers, the safety of school premises, vulnerability of girls and women and, in the longer term, the ability of affected countries to accelerate economic and social development. In addition, schools in all three countries had limited safe water and sanitation prior to the crisis, a critical factor given the key role of hand-washing with in preventing transmission.

During the more than six months when schools remained closed, at least 5 million children missed out on learning opportunities.   While children remain out of school, they are more exposed to other kinds of risks for their health and well-being.

  • The longer a child stays out of school the less likely (s)he is to return. The drop-out rates in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are likely to rise as a result of the Ebola outbreak. 
  • Without access to education, children are less resilient and more vulnerable to the various protection risks common in times of crisis. Increased incidence of early marriage and pregnancy have been observed in other emergency contexts.
  • As contributing to the household economy becomes even more critical for survival, children who are out-of-school are more likely to be involved in worst forms of child labour, which makes the return to school even less likely.

The outbreak has had a negative impact on the availability of teachers, the quality of teaching and learning and on the safety of school premises (especially for those being used as isolation or treatment centres). Teachers will also return to work having experienced loss, grief and difficult situations, and will now be expected to support and guide the children in their classes in a sensitive, structured and holistic way.  Schooling with properly equipped teachers can provide these affected children with a sense of normalcy, hope and stability, reduce fear and stigma and help to mitigate the psycho-social impact of the crisis.


(Source: Childinfo 2014, Global Education Cluster, UNICEF)


Education Actors Responding to the Crisis

The following education actors are currently providing an education response to the crisis:

Sierra Leone

  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Concern
  • Conference of Principals
  • Education for All
  • Forum of African Women Educationalist
  • IBIS
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Ministry of Education Science and Technology
  • Plan International
  • Save the Children
  • Sierra Leonean Teachers’ Union
  • United Nations Population Fund
  • World Food Programme
  • World Vision International


  • Education Development Center
  • FCA
  • Concern
  • Save the children
  • FAWE
  • LTTP
  • Childfund
  • UMC
  • PLAN
  • American Institutes for Research (AIR)/GOAL Plus Project


Needs and Challenges

After more than six months of closure, schools are reopening across the region. Schools opened in Guinean in January, in Liberia schools are in the process of reopening and the Sierra Leoneoan government is set to see schools open at the end of March. UNICEF, Save the Children and education partners are working with local governments to ensure when school reopen, they are safe and protective spaces for learning. The first step has been to develop a set of minimum requirements for the safe reopening, the Safe Schools Protocols. Ministries of Education and Health together with partners in each of the three affected countries have developed a country-specific set of protocols which include the following:

  • daily temperature monitoring of students and teachers upon arrival at school
  • guidance on proper water and sanitation in schools including hand washing requirements
  • referral mechanisms with local health centres and
  • teacher training to ensure awareness and adherence to the guidance
  • cleaning and disinfecting procedures for schools – including schools in poor rural areas
  • UNICEF, at the global level, together with the WHO and the CDC developed a set of overarching guidance related to preventing the spread of Ebola in schools which outlines principles for safely reopening schools and key messages for community members about what they need to know and do to keep schools safe and the children attending school healthy.

Country specific examples can be found here:
Sierra Leone

(Source: Childinfo 2014, Global Education Cluster, UNICEF)

Tools and Resources

The following key INEE resources in English and French can be used to support EiE efforts in Ebola-affected countries:


Key Information Sources


Key Words

Ebola, Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, education disruption


Help us keep this crisis spotlight profile up-to-date!

Please add your inputs and reactions by sending comments or a completed Crisis Spotlight template to [email protected]. Remember to provide reputable sources for all of your information. The EiE Crisis Spotlights team will review your submission prior to posting the information on the INEE website.