As current and former World Bank employees, we have all worked to speed the development of African economies and have viewed Africa’s recent spectacular growth with mounting enthusiasm. Thus, we have followed with growing sadness and dismay the stories of human suffering emanating from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in the context of the Ebola epidemic. These horrifying stories of the effect of Ebola in West Africa are now overshadowing continued good economic news from the rest of the continent.
About a month ago we were asked – together with a much larger team – to estimate the economic costs of the outbreak for the West Africa region. The report, titled “The Economic Impact of the 2014 Ebola Epidemic: Short and Medium Term Estimates for West Africa,” was released yesterday.
The World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu had some answers in a live-streamed conversation, Building Shared Prosperity in an Unequal World, with Chinese media entrepreneur Yang Lan in the lead-up to the institution’s Annual Meetings on Wednesday morning.
A woman walks by an Ebola awareness sign in Freetown, Liberia. © Tanya Bindra/UNICEF
As the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa shows, the importance of reducing inequality could not be more clear. The battle against the virus is a fight on many fronts — human lives and health foremost among them.
But the fight against Ebola is also a fight against inequality. The knowledge and infrastructure to treat the sick and contain the virus exists in high- and middle-income counties. However, over many years, we have failed to make these things accessible to low-income people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. So now thousands of people in these countries are dying because, in the lottery of birth, they were born in the wrong place.
If we do not stop Ebola now, the infection will continue to spread to other countries and even continents, as we have seen with the first Ebola case in the United States this past week. This pandemic shows the deadly cost of unequal access to basic services and the consequences of our failure to fix this problem.
The virus is spreading out of control in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As a consequence, our ability to boost shared prosperity in West Africa — and potentially the entire continent — may be quickly disappearing.
The Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continues to spread despite country and international efforts to stop it in its tracks and make sure it never returns. As of October 1, 3,338 people have died and 7,178 are infected. More people have perished in this latest Ebola outbreak than in all previous outbreaks of the virus on the continent combined. In addition to the large number of people who have died, and the steady march of new infections, the three hardest-hit countries are also suffering heavy economic costs from trade and travel restrictions, food being in short supply, and other impacts. While health workers, international health agencies and charities work furiously to contain the outbreak, we must also think ahead so that we might avoid similar epidemics in the future. What might the first step be? Better understanding the animal origins of Ebola and other infectious diseases so that we can prevent an epidemic like this from ever happening again.
Ebola is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it is transmitted from animals to humans. In past outbreaks, this has occurred during the handling of wildlife – bats, gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, even porcupines. The running hypothesis for this outbreak is that it came from bats, though an early focus of consideration was on primates trafficked through capital cities. Regardless of the precise path of transmission, it is clear that we must examine human relationships with wildlife to ensure we protect against this and other future disease risks.
This week’s links include highlights from this year’s UNGA meetings, including coverage of the new Global Financing Facility for Every Woman, Every Child. Each Friday, we share a selection of global health Tweets, infographics, blog posts, videos and more. Follow us @worldbankhealth.
Today, the World Bank Group and the governments of Canada, Norway, and the United States announced that they will jumpstart the creation of an innovative Global Financing Facility to mobilize support for developing countries’ plans to accelerate progress on the health-related Millennium Development Goals and bring an end to preventable maternal and child deaths by 2030. Watch the video blog below for more on my thoughts about this exciting announcement.
This week, we share good news on new child mortality data, in addition to continuing global coverage of the Ebola crisis. Each Friday, we share a selection of global health Tweets, infographics, blog posts, videos and more. Follow us @worldbankhealth.
A new World Bank Group analysis finds that if the Ebola epidemic continues to surge in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, its economic impact could deal a catastrophic blow to the already fragile countries. However, swift national and international responses can limit the costs. Listen to World Bank Group President Jim Kim discuss the Ebola crisis and response in the video above, or read his latest post on LinkedIn.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa started with just one case. More than nine months later, it’s now outrunning the ability of fragile countries and relief organizations in the three most-affected countries to contain it. Clinics and hospitals are overloaded. Sick people are being turned away. Things could get much worse unless something changes.