EEG Energy Insight: Electricity access and health behaviour before and during COVID-19 in Sierra Leone

Underutilisation of health clinics can increase morbidity and mortality both in developed and in developing countries. During a health crisis, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people might become more reluctant to use health clinics. Consequently, utilisation rates of health clinics might decrease, risking both an increase in morbidity as well as slowing down the transmission of information relevant to the containment of the pandemic – the majority of which is disseminated through clinics.

This Energy Insight focuses on Sierra Leone, where just 2.5% of the rural population have access to electricity. Sierra Leone recorded its first COVID-19 case on 30 March 2020, and has since seen a steady increase in cases. Using data on patient visits collected from health clinic registers, we see that, over time, reported health seeking increases, both in electrified and non-electrified clinics. In addition, the pre-COVID-19 utilization gap almost disappears for diverse types of visits. In all, the data suggests that electrification increases clinic quality and thus utilisation.

Sierra Leone
Niccoló Meriggi, A. Mushfiq Mobarak, Maarten Voors