WASHINGTON - The World Bank is offering an additional $650 million to help Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone recover from the devastating Ebola epidemic.
Before Ebola these nations had some of the highest economic growth rates in Africa, but the crisis closed markets, crimped trade, and forced schools and work places to close. This brought sharp cuts in the growth needed to fund the improved health care systems, infrastructure, education and other things needed to fight the disease and rebuild the economy.
Friday in Washington, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the new money brings the bank's aid to these West African nations to more than $1.6 billion. Kim said as long as one case of this virus remains, it is a threat to these countries - and the world.
“The Ebola crisis has dealt a crippling blow to the millions of people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone," said Kim. "And the epidemic is not over. So the world must not let up on efforts to get to zero Ebola cases, in all three countries. For as long as one case of this deadly virus remains, the countries, the region and the world will remain at risk.”
The number of Ebola cases has been cut drastically, and efforts are now underway to track down the last few cases and stop any new flare up of the deadly disease.
In a World Bank meeting, the presidents of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone thanked international organizations and other nations for sending millions of dollars and thousands of people to help fight the epidemic.
But Sierra Leone’s president Ernest Bai Koroma said it will take even more hard work to get to zero Ebola cases, and that is just the start to reviving the economies of these battered nations.
“The road to zero [Ebola cases] could be bumpy and has always been bumpy. We urge that we remain coordinated, in our drawdown plans," said Koroma. "Secondly, we have to start the road to recovery. As indicated in the presentation, our economies have been badly affected, our social activity is down, and it is a long way to recovery.”
New World Bank data shows these three relatively small nations have lost $2.2 billion in economic activity. They have been badly hurt by the Ebola epidemic as well as falling prices for their commodity exports. The bank’s experts say Liberia is gradually returning to normalcy, Guinea's economy is stagnating, and Sierra Leone is suffering a severe recession.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the international community must continue to stand with these West African nations as they work to restore their economies and prevent epidemics of Ebola or any other disease. He also praised the presidents of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone for their leadership and resolve during a severe crisis.
"I would like to highly commend the leadership and the very resilient, quality leadership of the three affected countries - the presence of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone," said Ban.
"I am very glad we have taken part in the recovery of these countries while we are seeing an encouraging reduction of the cases. And this is multi-lateralism at its height and World Bank and WHO and [unintelligible] have been working together very closely, and I appreciate Dr. Kim's leadership, who has been playing an instrumental role in this. Just as we have helped these countries while the outbreak was at its height, we have to stand by with them as the outbreak now ebbs - that means providing essential services to these countries - healthcare systems, education, jobs and markets," he said.
Ban went to to say much work remained to be done and that he counts on the international community to continue to demonstrate generosity and unity of purpose.
"In the meantime, there is an urgent, unfinished task - keeping these cases to zero and staying there. I think we can make it," he said.