With the Ebola outbreak waning but not yet over, the three most affected countries must now find ways to rebuild their economies and strengthen their health systems to try to prevent another health crisis in the future.
To that end, the presidents of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone came to the World Bank on April 17 to ask for help funding an $8 billion, 10-year recovery plan for the three countries, with $4 billion needed over the next four years to accelerate recovery. More than $1 billion was pledged by the end of a high-level meeting at the start of the World Bank Group -IMF Spring Meetings – including $650 million from the World Bank Group.
The three presidents described the ordeal of the past year as Ebola struck amid a sharp decline in global prices for their exports. Their health systems collapsed; contractors, consultants, and investors left their countries; farms and markets ceased; trade and travel contracted; fiscal balances weakened; and revenue declined, said Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. “The challenge quickly became a national and subnational crisis of unprecedented proportions,” said Sirleaf.
Added Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma: “We have to address the issues of getting our economies back on their feet. We will have to address the issues of the vulnerable people, the survivors, the orphans that have been left as a result of the Ebola. We have to get our schools back to normalcy and address the issues of the teenage pregnancy that have been as a result of Ebola, and all of these need resources.”
“Ebola is like a war in our countries,” said Guinea President Alpha Condé. “We want to thank you for all you have done, but we want to ask you to do more, to come up with more resources. … We would like to leave here with new hope.”
A new report finds that Sierra Leone is now facing a severe recession with the potential for an unprecedented negative 23.5% growth rate in 2015. Liberia is gradually returning to normalcy, with a projected GDP growth rate of 3% in 2015, higher than in 2014 though still well below pre-Ebola estimates of 6.8%. Guinea’s economy continues to stagnate, with a projected growth of -0.2% for 2015 compared to the pre-Ebola rate of 4.3%.
“Even as we focus on getting to zero cases, we must also work together to jump-start investments in recovery in all three countries,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “The extent of the recovery of these three countries is a test for all of us.”
Kim said he was encouraged by the show of support at the meeting attended by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, government ministers and officials from several countries, and leaders of organizations.
Besides $650 million from the Bank Group, additional pledges came from the African Development Bank ($300 million); Japan ($28 million), the Netherlands, and Russia.
These contributions are in addition to $5.7 billion from international donors for Ebola response, much of which is now flowing into recovery efforts as the epidemic wanes. The Bank Group has committed a total of $1.62 billion.
Many other donors, such as France; Germany; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance also indicated they are making resources available for recovery and development in the three countries and the region.
The UN will host a pledging conference to raise money for the recovery of the three countries July 10 in New York.