The countries of the West Africa region that experienced low or zero incidence of Ebola have still been affected by the Ebola crisis because of their deep connections with the three hardest hit countries, according to a new United Nations report released yesterday.
Spreading from Guinea in December 2013, the Ebola hemorrhagic fever has already killed 10,000 people, mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
“The consequences of Ebola are vast,” said Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, the Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa. “Stigma, risk aversion and shutting down of borders have caused considerable amounts of damage, affecting economies and communities in a large number of countries across the sub-region.”
According to the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), West Africa as a whole may lose an average of at least US$3.6 billion per year from 2014 to 2017, due to a decrease in trade, closing of borders, flight cancellations and reduced foreign direct investment and tourism activity, fuelled by stigma.
This has also had an important impact on human development. The region’s per capita income is expected to fall by US$18.00 per year between 2015 and 2017.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the poverty rate has risen by at least 0.5 percentage points because of Ebola, while in Senegal the proportion of people living below the national poverty line increased by up to 1.8 percent in 2014. In addition, food insecurity in countries such as Mali and Guinea-Bissau is expected to increase.
According to the UN report, the poverty rate (the proportion of people living on less than US$ 1.25 a day) may increase by 22 percent in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in 2016.
Citing the African Union’s efforts to send doctors from Nigeria and Ethiopia, Mr. Dieye said coordinated efforts by the Mano River Union and the ECOWAS Regional Solidarity Fund, the report calls for increased involvement of West African governments and regional institutions to stop the epidemic and help the affected countries to recover.
In addition, the report says, preventing future outbreaks must involve a combination of regional and national interventions that include strengthening health sectors across the region, the immediate creation of a regional Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, coordinated border control and establishment of early warning and disaster management systems in these countries.
He added that such prevention efforts would draw on the experiences of countries such as Nigeria and Senegal, whose decentralized health systems played a key role in slowing down and eradicating transmission of the disease.
Reading from the UN report, the UNDP Regional Bureau Director also calls for an integrated recovery package, which includes re-opening borders, creating effective social safety nets for affected and vulnerable populations.
Moreover, he said there should be an improved regional and international cooperation that would be required to ensure recovery efforts gain momentum in the three most-affected countries.