‘We’re with You’

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The President of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, has slammed the international community for failing to make [basic healthcare] accessible to low-income economies such as Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone over the years where thousands of people are dying from Ebola because they here were born in the wrong place on earth ‘in the lottery of birth.’

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed over 4,000 people in the sub-region and infected nearly 10,000, says World Health Organization (WHO).

 But Dr. Kim has assured the people of the three countries hit hardest by the virus that the world community is united with them (West Africans) particularly Liberia, in a concerted global effort to safeguard lives in the wake of an Ebola outbreak.

 “We are with you and will stand by you,” Kim said in remarks at a specially  organized meeting with the Liberian delegation on the sidelines of the ongoing World Bank Group and IMF Annual meetings convening in Washington D.C., USA.

“We are with you. The international response was slow from the beginning. It took a long time to get to you, but be assured that we are with you,” Dr. Kim said. “If we have the local health people to do the work on the ground, let them to do it. What has happened in the past is that there has been low expectation.”

A dispatch from the US says the outspoken World Bank President told the Liberian delegation that more focus would be placed on stopping Ebola. “All of us at global levels failed first, but now, we are with you. What we are trying to do is not to fail you. We cannot allow ourselves to fail you.”

He warned that if much is not done and soon, the infection would continue to spread to other countries and even continents. “This virus would spread to other countries if we don’t move faster, as we have seen with the first Ebola case in the United States this past week. This pandemic shows the deadly cost of unequal access to basic services and the consequences of our failure to fix this problem.”

As a consequence, the ability to boost shared prosperity in West Africa — and potentially the entire continent — may be quickly disappearing.

Dr. Kim emphasized that the world's response to date has been inadequate, and that it has been painful to see a replay old failures from previous epidemics.

He promised the Liberian delegation that the Bank would continue to remain engaged with the affected countries, noting “overall, we have pledged US$400 million to support treatment and containment. And we have devoted our considerable analytical resources to show that acting now will save hundreds of millions, if not tens of billions of dollars.”

The meeting comes at a time when Liberia is experiencing the worst ever outbreak of the “Ebola Virus Disease” (EVD) in history, which has claimed over 2,000 lives in the country and posed  further risks of exposure to the larger population and as well, a severe impact on the economy.

Earlier, Liberia’s Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Amara M. Konneh,  highlighted government’s current challenges and the gains that have been recorded so far in the fight against Ebola. But a lot more is needed to be done, he warned. 

“We need to revamp the entire health sector. Our health system has been affected greatly. The economy which was projected to grow at 5.9 percent in 2014 has now receded to just one percent. Our (economy) is in recession,” Minister Konneh briefed the Bank President.

 He called on the international community not to forget about the economic consequences. “We want to fight Ebola and at the same time we want this fight to finish quickly so we can start the recovery process, in order that our citizens may  regain their livelihood.”

Minister Konneh explained that the service sector is the hardest hit, declining significantly to some 10 percent.

 "We have to achieve two things: To tell the Liberian people’s story in the context of the Mano River Union (MRU) story, to mobilize resources for an effective response to fight the Ebola virus and at the same time to strengthen the healthcare delivery system.

He encouraged the Bank and other partners to increase their support to the affected countries, looking beyond the aftermath of the crisis.

 “We want quality healthcare for our people, but even after Ebola, communities devastated by this outbreak will need to rebuild, accelerate economic activity and drive back livelihood.”

He thanked the Bank and other partners for the level of support so far, which he says is boosting government’s Ebola response activities.

Minister Konneh and delegation, including the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia   (CBL), Dr. J. Mills Jones, Dr. Francis Kateh, of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and Representative Munah Pelham Youngblood, are scheduled to hold a series of multilateral and bilateral discussions aimed at rallying support for the government’s “National Ebola Response Strategy.”

With the latest death toll from Ebola now at 4,000 in the three worst-affected countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, a new economic impact assessment from the World Bank Group warns that if the epidemic were not   significantly contained and is allowed to infect people in neighboring countries, some of which have much larger economies, the two-year regional financial impact could reach US$32.6 billion by the end of 2015.

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