The Ebola outbreak in West Africa caused widespread devastation in the three hardest-hit countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone

In a bid to find ways to eradicate the Ebola epidemic, which has affected nearly 23 000 and killed over 9 000 people in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, executive directors of development finance institution the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) have met in Côte d'Ivoire.

The aim of this meeting is to find sustainable means by which to eradicate Ebola. In doing so the AfDB urged management to leverage the Bank’s convening power to bring other development partners together and coordinate actions that would help build structures to contain the disease definitively.

Reviewing the Bank’s efforts to contain the disease, the AfDB board members observed that the disease has in effect exposed the weaknesses of healthcare and related systems in the countries concerned in particular and on the African continent as a whole.

The current outbreak in West Africa is considered to be the largest and most complex of its kind. It can be traced back to a single case in December 2013 in Guinea, after which it spread across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia; and through one traveller to Nigeria, and to Senegal and Mali, where it was eventually contained with no new cases reported.

The Status Quo of Ebola

Although the disease was reported to have substantially declined toward the end of 2014, new outbreaks in previously unaffected areas have been reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone in the past two weeks, the AfDB said.

The reported resurgence of Ebola is an indication that counter measures are needed to be strengthened underscoring the need for a sector-wide strategy within and across countries to tackle the disease in the medium- and long-term.

Two presentations made by senior Bank staff at the meeting provided a graphic picture of the Ebola situation in West Africa, its pervasive impact and the Bank’s leadership role in efforts to contain the disease.

The presentations also illustrated how the most active segment of the labour force, including women, in the countries concerned are being “decimated”.

Economic Effects

Agriculture and education are among the worst-hit areas, with economic losses estimated at US $113 million (5.1% of GDP) for Liberia; $95 million (2.1% of GDP) for Sierra Leona and $120 million (1.8% of GDP) for Guinea.

The mining industry in West Africa has also been affected by the Ebola epidemic. The outbreak saw the forced evacuation of employees from mine sites, which, in turn, led to loss of production. The risk posed by Ebola has also forced resource development companies to more closely scrutinise their capital expenditure plans and has led mining companies to postpone their planned investment into expanding their projects.

Several board members commended management and staff for leading the fight to contain Ebola by mobilising a total of $223 million that complemented national and international efforts in addition to coordinating dialogues and strategies at national and global levels.

 

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