Liberia is now facing its toughest test to date with the outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever. The Ebola virus disease, extremely fatal and presently without a cure, is spreading fast throughout the country like a forest fire.
The human killer disease has overloaded the country’s already brittle health system. Liberia, with a poor political system, coupled with bad investments, has worsened the country’s brain drain, making it incapable of managing the current health crisis.
As a result of the country’s frail health system, the government recently cried for international help and declared a state of emergency, indicating to the world that it has lost control in its brawl against the disease.
There is handful of qualified doctors and nurses remaining at the front line to confront the monster killer while others are paranoic, for fear of contracting the virus as many of their colleagues, who have lost their lives in the process of attempting to save lives.
Statistics have established that the Ebola virus disease will definitely leave scars across the country and on the country’s economy which is expected to shrivel by 9% as a direct consequence of the epidemic.
The American government recently offered a twinkle of hope announcing the arrival of three thousand American soldiers and the construction of a US$ 22M first class health facility for doctors and nurses who may contract the virus while fighting to save lives.
While the government of Liberia and its international partners are struggling to contain the biggest worldwide epidemic, the prices of imported and locally produced commodities have skyrocketed in recent times in Bong County and in the country, due to the presence of the hemorrhagic fever.
The price of a 25kg bag of rice previously sold for L$ 1,200.00 is at this moment being sold in Bong County for L$1,700.00, while the prices of cassava and local vegetables continued to climb by the day, thereby subjecting the already impoverished Bong County residents to extreme hardship.
Weekly markets in the county have closed as another strategy put in place by the county authority in order to help to contain the further spread of the Ebola virus disease.
Many marketers who spoke with this newspaper said the immediate closure of the weekly markets in the county has introduced untold suffering to them and has forced some of them (marketers) to auction their goods at very low prices in order to put food on their table.
“Until the virus is brought under control, there will be a repeated slowdown in all sectors of this country’s economy, something from which we might not ever recover,” declared Mr. John O. Sumo a student of economics at the Cuttington University.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) statistics established that Liberia’s economy had been growing by around 10% since 2005 and will reduce by 9%–to 1% by the time Liberia is post-Ebola.
The World Bank also estimates that Liberia, the worst case of the outbreak will cost US$ 228M or 11.7% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The World Bank maintained that inflation has spiked in the country, fueled by uncertainty and capital flight, while exchange rates continue to be volatile.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization statistics say agriculture contributes 39% of Liberia’s GDP and that the economy is in trouble, as the rice harvest takes place between October and November.
The mining industry also contributes around 14% of Liberia’s economy, with international companies, such as Accerlor Mittal and Hummingbird operating at below capacity in the country.
The Ebola outbreak has reduced labor force participation, closed places of employment and disrupted transportation across the country. This has also increased the economic hardship of the poverty stricken population.
Liberia with a donor driven economy, imports annually US$220M rice that is being consumed by the inhabitants.
More than 1,578 people are said to have died from the Ebola virus in Liberia alone and the government has closed the country’s major border crossings and introduced curfew in an attempt to contain the outbreak.