Article written

  • on 04.03.2015
  • at 07:51 PM
  • by evelina

A Marshall plan to defeat Ebola 0

The over 5 billion euros pledged by the international community, and already partially delivered to the three most hit countries in West Africa, aren’t enough, according to the heads of state of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. In order to beat Ebola, a Marshall plan is necessary.

At a high-level conference on Ebola held yesterday in Brussels, Liberia’s president called for a “Marshall Plan” to help rebuild economies in West African nations that have been ravaged by the virus. West Africa is still facing the largest and most severe Ebola epidemic on record and
despite significant progress, the virus continues to kill and to have a terrible impact on the societies and economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. These are the three countries worst hit by the crisis and are forecasted to lose 12 per cent of their combined gross domestic product this year, according to World Bank estimates.

Over 23.900 people have been infected, more than 9700 of whom have died. According to a UN evaluation, the number of new cases had declined from around 900 a week to a current figure of 100, but that cases appeared to be climbing back up along the coastal regions of Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The conference gathered representatives of 150 delegations, including 69 countries, together with international and non-governmental organizations, the private sector and the scientific community, with the aim of taking stock of the ongoing emergency response and adapting it to the evolving situation on the ground.

It came as Sierra Leone’s vice president remains in self-imposed quarantine after one of his bodyguards died from Ebola; “This shows how Ebola is still a threat that does not spare anyone”, Mathew Wilson Kamara, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, told Afronline.
The conference acknowledged that the international community must maintain momentum in order to get to zero cases of Ebola, while also noting that rebuilding healthcare systems is key to the recovery effort in the affected regions. “We need our international partners to remain committed to us,” Ellen Johnson Sirleaf noted.

Immediate priorities

During the conference, the governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone presented national plans designed to help the economic recovery and win the battle against Ebola, while also highlighting some key policy areas.

Bringing the Ebola epidemic to an end, and achieving containment of the virus are the first challenges and arguably, the three presidents were too ambitious in setting a deadline of the end of April to accomplish such important objectives.

“We need to redouble the efforts, as this last phase of the epidemic is the most delicate and the county runs the risk of other epidemics”, the President of Guinea Alpha Condé pointed out.

He also stressed the point that that the virus has decimated the population and destroyed the economy. “We need to be supported by the international community in this first recovery phase.”

The key priorities outlined in the plan by the three presidents include: the safe resumption of basic services such as health, education, water, sanitation, social and child protection, the necessity to address in the medium term related systemic and structural weaknesses in both the health and non-health sectors, including agriculture, food and nutrition security; in particular that of children, along with education and peace.
A key aspect highlighted is the need to draw on the lessons learned from this crisis and incorporate them into the recovery and development plans. One such important lesson is the importance of having fair and safe access to essential social services with an adequately trained health-care workforce.

Another important component in the effort to defeat Ebola that was frequently highlighted during the conference is enhancing regional cooperation amongst African counties in the region, as “the virus doesn’t respect boarders.”
Other actions to take, according to the plan presented by the presidents, include Investing in infrastructure linked to the return of normal, everyday social services, so as to quickly reopen all schools and health centres, as well as improving public administration and finance management in the social and health sectors.

Debt cancellation

About €4.9 billion had been pledged by the international community (a figure that has now risen to €5.1 billion) last year to fight the Ebola crisis and about 2.4 billion has already been used, according to an EU source. Speaking to Afronline, President Condé, on the same note as his Liberian counter-part, said: “the international community must increase the funds to tackle Ebola”, and stressed that “the commitments must be respected “.

In addition to the extra funds, the African presidents have called for the cancellation of their debts.
Some countries seem to be taking into consideration such an option and on the eve of the conference, the IMF announced a partial cancellation of the debt of Sierra Leone amounting to $187 million. According to the head of the World Bank EU office Massimiliano Paolucci, the Paris Club permanent members could consider cancelling the debts of the Ebola-hit countries, but problem would still remain for other countries that do not belong to the group, such as China and India.

Diaspora as a recovery tool

According to the head of the International Organisation for Migration Lacy Swing, in order to aid the economic recovery in the Mano River region, the diaspora should also be considered.

“We should look at working with the government over the diaspora issue, involving migrants from the West African region that are in foreign countries. We want the diaspora to continue to contribute to both the West African economy and its wider society. But for that to happen, we must have an active policy program for the diaspora. We could assist with managing the migration, especially protecting people who have been victims of poor treatment.”

Yesterday’s Ebola conference was in fact just an appetizer, the main course is expected to be served at the upcoming high-level meetings that will take place during the World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings (16th -18th April).
“Yesterday’s conference was a useful first step on the long road to recovery but much more needs to be done”, Debbie Hillier, Oxfam’s policy lead on Ebola, said in a statement.

“Before next month’s World Bank spring meetings, leaders must now turn this dialogue into solid commitments to get families back on their feet through an immediate cash injection, investment in jobs and essential services like health, water and sanitation, in particular in Liberia where cases are very low”, Hillier noted.

by Eva Donelli – Afronline

Photo Credit: European Commission

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