Three countries are requesting debt relief and additional funding to help with recovery efforts.
Image via Flickr user European Commission DG ECHO
When the Ebola virus was declared an international health emergency in 2014, international organizations began evacuating medical and humanitarian aid workers en masse. In areas hit the hardest, such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, the disease also displaced local families and villages, greatly reducing food production and disrupting local infrastructures.
The countries in West Africa most affected by the epidemic are asking international organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to cancel more than $3.1 billion (combined) in debt, as well as provide $5 to $6 billion over two years to aid the rebuilding of their economies.
"If that (debt) is canceled and support is provided to our regional program, it will take us a long way forward in our transformation agenda," Sierra Leone’s president Ernest Bai Koroma said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Image via Flickr user standbytaskforce1
More than 10,000 lives have been claimed since the outbreak began in West Africa in 2014, and 25,791 people have been diagnosed with Ebola. The number of new infections has decreased only recently, raising prospects for zero infections soon. “A total of 37 confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) was reported in the week to 12 April, compared with 30 the previous week,” reports the World Health Organization in its Ebola Situation Report – 15 April 2015.
While the disease seems to be loosening its hold on West Africa, leaders are saying that the region’s time of crisis is far from resolved. The state of disarray caused by the virus closed schools and healthcare systems, cancelled flights, and displaced farmers, leaving food production a huge concern. Not only does the Ebola virus have the potential to make a vengeful return, all of these issues are also compounded by the three countries’ long recovery from devestating civil wars and conflicts of the not-too-distant past.
The World Bank announced today that it would provide at least $650 million during the next 12 to 18 months to help, bringing the organization’s total contributions toward Ebola response and recovery efforts to $1.62 billion.
“Even as we work relentlessly to get to zero new Ebola cases, the international community must help Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone jumpstart their recovery and build a safer, more prosperous and resilient future for their people,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group in a statement.