Profiting from Ebola Virus Disease


SEPTEMBER 15, 2014 By Gabriel Benjamin and Josephine A. Seppeh


As the nation battles to contain the Ebola Viral Disease, Sierra Leoneans are now more hygiene conscious, a development that has increased the demand for hand sanitizers.

In marketing parlance, the fear factor is one of several factors that influence shoppers’ decisions. This factor, though hardly given a thought, now tops shoppers’ list. No thanks to the Ebola Viral Disease.

Indeed, since the outbreak of the Ebola Virus in Sierra Leone, the fear factor has played up on shoppers’ list, leading to the high demand for hand sanitizers. The ripple effect of this is that prices of the once unknown product have hit the rooftops. This follows the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), Ministry of Health and Sanitation and other concerned bodies, on the efficacy of sanitizers in preventing the deadly Ebola Viral Disease.

The Ebola virus is primarily transmitted through contact with bodily fluids of infected persons, the skin and mucous membranes being the main routes of entry.

Statistics show that the demand for hand sanitizer has increased by 130 percent since the Ebola virus struck Sierra Leone. Sales of hand washes and lotions have equally increased significantly in supermarkets and stores across Freetown and its environs.

“The demand for hand sanitizers has risen greatly since the outbreak of Ebola. Daily sales have risen to about 200 percent since the outbreak of the disease. We have customers who buy in bulk as awareness of Ebola increases daily,” said Yeama Senesie

According to Mr. Jalloh, a pharmacist, “hand sanitizers are the fast going business nowadays because people buy it every now and then to prevent themselves from contracting the Ebola disease. It is really evident now in the country because when we buy hand sanitizers for sale, before the day ends there will be none. Even though hand sanitizers are meant for bacteria and not for virus, people will buy.”

Ibrahim Sawaneh, a trader said, “I’m making profit through the sales of hand sanitizers nowadays”. Prior to now, he had no dealings with hand sanitizers because people were not asking for it. But now people ask him every minute for sanitizers because of the Ebola disease outbreak, and it is being sold at a faster rate than other items on his table.

The said demand for hand sanitizers has also followed the law of demand and supply. The high demand for sanitizers has also led to sub-standard or unknown brands flooding the market. The unprecedented rise in demand, it was gathered, has encouraged some retailers to introduce new but substandard brands into the market as substitutes for much sought-after brands, which are presumably expensive.

Before the Ebola disease outbreak, sanitary products accounted for a little percentage of the health category market sales, but it is now high on the demand chart for several months running.

Interestingly, the Ebola virus has brought with it a good side promotion of basic hygiene to prevent the transmission of not just the disease, but other germs and bacteria related to the disease. This is by observing simple habit of washing hands with soap and water, hand-wash liquids and sanitizers. Sierra Leoneans now see the importance of washing their hands and using sanitizers as necessary after a visit to the toilet, touching a dirty object and after performing various daily tasks.

A visit to some major supermarkets in Freetown, banks, business places and offices showed that Sierra Leoneans have formed new habits – hand washing. Some now wear hand gloves to market places, just as bankers now do when attending to their customers.

Forming the ‘new fad’, market women now make bowls of water and soap handy for regular use after each transaction. There is now provision for hand sanitizers in all strategic places in the country.

At local markets in Sanni Abacha, Krootown Road, Dove Cut and Lumley, market women said they have been told to wash their hands before and after attending to customers.

“The orientation given to us is that we must wash our hands after collecting money from customers and we have made provisions for that. I have my sanitizer here with me and I use it immediately I finish attending to my customer,” said Isatu Mbaimba.