Tears cascade down her face as she embraces the mound, her cheek pressed to the dirt, a body six feet below. She wails, screams, bends backward and then throws herself back on the grave, again and again. A wreath sheathed in plastic nestles below a simple cross marker with a name and a date: April 24, 2015 -- marking one of the 4,809 lives claimed by Ebola in Liberia.
Exactly one year ago, I received an unexpected call from my manager just as I was finishing a week of paternity leave following the birth of my daughter. She asked me to lead an “absolutely urgent” project and said she was cutting her summer break short to return to the office. That project was on Ebola response. We had monitored Ebola cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone over the previous months with growing concern, but now the World Bank was mobilizing its first emergency funding commitment to help the three affected countries contain the disease’s spread and help communities cope with the economic fallout.
This week at the Third International Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa, we’ve seen the birth of a new era in global health financing.
The World Bank Group, together with our partners in the United Nations, Canada, Norway, and the United States, just launched the Global Financing Facility in support of Every Woman Every Child. It’s hard to believe it’s been less than 10 months since the GFF was first announced at the 2014 UN General Assembly by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway. We’re grateful to the hundreds of representatives from developing countries, UN agencies, bilateral and multilateral development partners, civil society and the private sector who have contributed their time, ideas, and expertise to inform and shape the design of the GFF to get it ready to become operational.
This week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the Third International Financing for Development Conference, the United Nations, along with the World Bank Group, and the governments of Canada, Norway and the United States, joined country and global health leaders to launch the Global Financing Facility (GFF) in support of Every Woman Every Child. Partners announced that $12 billion in domestic and international, private and public funding had already been aligned to country-led five-year investment plans for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health in the four GFF front-runner countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.
In Liberia, the number of weekly new cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has fallen sharply since November 2014, and domestic “aversion behavior” due to the crisis is abating. There is greater mobility of people, as reflected in the reopening of markets and increasing petrol sales. The government is more bullish about the future course of the epidemic and has lifted curfews, recalled furloughed civil servants, and opened borders, and is reopening schools, shuttered since the onset of the crisis.
On sait que l’épidémie d’Ebola a eu un impact dévastateur sur le plan de la santé, avec, à ce jour, 21 000 personnes infectées et 8 000 décédées. On connaît aussi ses effets sur l’économie de l’Afrique de l’Ouest : selon les dernières estimations de la Banque mondiale, la crise Ebola se chiffrera en 2015 à au moins 1,6 milliard de dollars de pertes de croissance pour la Guinée, le Libéria et la Sierra Leone.
Most people are aware of Ebola's devastating impact on human health. To date, over 22,800 people have been infected and 9,000 have died. Its effects on West Africa's economy have also been well-documented. According to recent World Bank estimates, Ebola will cause at least US$ 1.6 billion in lost economic growth in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2015.
It’s been a difficult year for the people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and all those fighting to end the terrible Ebola epidemic that took thousands of lives, spread fear and destabilized economies. Though the global response to this crisis was too slow, at year’s end, there are hopeful signs that international mobilization is having an impact, and that the countries most affected by the disease are coalescing around the goal of “zero cases.”
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit several communities affected by Ebola in Liberia and Guinea. While I saw clear signs of progress in terms of destigmatization and family support, we can’t for one second take our foot off the accelerator in pushing forward on our response to this crisis. There’s a long way to go until we reach zero cases. Here are some of my reflections from the trip.