22nd Oct 2019

West African leaders call for post-Ebola support

The leaders of the three West African countries worst hit by the Ebola epidemic called on the international community for a regional ‘Marshall Plan’ at an EU-hosted conference on Tuesday (3 March).

The “Ebola: from emergency to recovery” conference took place in Brussels on Tuesday, co-chaired by the European Union, together with the Presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the United Nations and the African Union.

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  • The number of new Ebola cases in West Africa has dropped dramatically, but regional leaders want international support to help recover from the epidemic. (Photo: European Commission)

The epidemic, which began in spring 2014, has killed almost 10,000 people out of more than 23,000 confirmed cases in the three countries. The World Health Organisation estimates that the true infection rate and death toll is significantly higher than has been reported.

However, the disease, which has a very high mortality rate and is highly contagious - passed through through human-to-human contact - appears to be coming under control, with fewer than 100 cases being reported each week for the last month. It has no known vaccine or cure.

“Victory against the virus is in sight, but we must guard against complacency,” said President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone. “There won't be complete victory until we get to a resilient zero in each of the three affected countries.”

For its part, the UN said it would continue to support “the drive to zero” cases.

The epidemic, which effectively forced the affected countries in West Africa to quarantine themselves and restrict travel in and out of their countries, also delivered a severe setback to their economies in the process.

“A regional approach would achieve the best recovery results,” Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf told the 600 delegates, including ministers and health experts from across the world, adding that “there is no doubt that this will require significant resources, perhaps even a Marshall Plan.”

“We believe however that this can be achieved through allocation of the additional resources committed by the European Commission", she said.

The three recovering countries are drawing up a blueprint for a regional ‘Marshall plan’ to help their economies recover, which will be presented to the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in April.

Speaking at the conference, EU development commissioner Neven Mimica said that 50 percent of the bloc’s development assistance was being used to provide budget support to the governments of three countries to help them deliver “urgently needed public services and cushion the economic impact of the epidemic.”

"The European Commission, together with the bloc’s 28 governments, have so far pledged around €1.2 billion to Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria, the countries worst affected by the disease, as part of total pledges from the international community of $5 billion (€4.6 billion)."

But the international community has been criticised by medical NGOs and the UN for failing to do enough and acting too slowly, while African leaders at the conference stated that only $2.4 billion (€2.2 billion) of the pledged money has actually been made available to the affected countries. The conference did not see any further donation pledges.

When it came to Ebola, “the world was ill-prepared. It shows,” said Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organisation. “We must reduce this vulnerability as a matter of urgency.”

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