As the United Nations warned today that the Ebola outbreak is deepening the socio-economic challenges faced by the hardest hit countries in West Africa, the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), announced a package of some $450 million in commercial financing that will enable trade, investment, and employment in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The announcemnt by the IFC/World Bank Group also noted that if the virus continues to surge in the three worst-affected countries and spreads to neighbouring States, the two-year regional financial impact could reach $32.6 billion by the end of 2015.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP), meanwhile, also warned that the Ebola outbreak is impairing the ability of the governments of the frontline countries to raise revenues, increasing their exposure to domestic and foreign debts and may make them more dependent on aid. In just six months, the outbreak has led to severe loss in household incomes, totalling 35 per cent in Liberia, 30 per cent in Sierra Leone and 13 per cent in Guinea.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO), in its most recent statistics on the crisis, reported 13,042 cases in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain and the United States, as well as in two previously affected countries, Nigeria and Senegal. WHO said the death toll now stood at 4,818.
The agency noted that all districts in both Sierra Leone and Liberia have now been infected and that “in Sierra Leone, the weekly incidence continues to rise, while in Liberia it appears to be declining.” Cases and deaths continue to be under-reported in this outbreak, according to the UN health agency.
Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, said “Ebola is a humanitarian crisis first and foremost, but it’s also an economic disaster for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. That’s why in addition to our emergency aid we will do all we can to help support the private sector in these countries to build back their businesses.”
The IFC initiative includes a program begun in October to reach 800 small and medium enterprises in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to help ensure business continuity during the crisis. The program will provide medical and hygiene supplies; related literature; and training on preventive measures.
The UNDP study also urges governments and national and international partners to continue investing in development activities and make sure every dollar spent on tackling the emergency is an opportunity to invest back in the community and economy for the long haul.
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone had experienced encouraging rates of economic growth over the past 10 years – at 2.8, 10 and 8 percent respectively – sustained by mining, forestry, agriculture and services.