As the infection rate of the Ebola virus disease reduces in the Mano River Union (MRU) basin, countries devastated by the virus, (Liberia Guinea and Sierra Leone), through their spokesperson, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has called for a long-term response to the crisis and its glaring impacts. This plan is to be centered on economic recovery.
Speaking at the opening of the high level conference on Ebola in Brussels on Tuesday, President Sirleaf called for an Ebola "Marshall Plan" to help rebuild the region’s fragile economies and for "international partners to remain committed" to bringing an end to the epidemic.
The conference is being held under the theme: "Ebola: from emergency to recovery." It is under the patronage of the European Union and jointly organized by the EU, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, and the United Nations.
The conference’s objective is taking stock of the current fight against Ebola, coordinate further action for the total eradication of the disease, and discuss the recovery process in the three most affected countries.
"The most important long-term response to Ebola rests on plans and strategies for economic recovery," President Sirleaf told global leaders, adding, “this will require significant resources, perhaps even a Marshall Plan," referencing the massive United States aid program in the late 1940s that helped Europe rebuild after Wo
The Marshall Plan, which was officially known as the European Recovery Program (ERP), a four year plan from 1948-1952, was the American initiative to aid Europe and Asia, in which the United States gave US$13 billion in economic support to help rebuild European economies. Its goals were to rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, and make Europe prosperous again.
President Sirleaf’s appeal is seen as countering the danger of Ebola 'donor fatigue’ but while the focus remains on eradication, President Sirleaf and other regional leaders have started to emphasize the need for long-term international support.
The conference, in its concluding statement, said "The principal objective is to stop all transmission of the virus." It acknowledged that there is much work ahead to achieve the goal.
"This will require continued political engagement, a sustained level of funding and the constant mobilization of technical staff and specialized assets," the statement indicated.
Countries and international organizations as well as individuals around the world have so far pledged $5.1 billion to fight Ebola, with $2.4 billion already disbursed, according to credible sources.
Since it began nearly a year ago, the outbreak has devastated the three countries' human resource capacity and undermined the already fragile economies, exacerbating many of their pre-existing challenges.
Financial and health experts say that Ebola’s socio-economic side effects will put the current and future prosperity of households at high risk in Liberia and its neighbors.
“We must pay careful attention to those who are most vulnerable to both health and economic shocks, and ensure that they are supported throughout and after the crisis,” a World Bank official was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, a report released Tuesday by Save the Children reinforces the case for an urgent investment in healthcare in the three countries. The report found that global effort to combat Ebola has cost $4.3 billion, more than twice as much as the $1.58 billion it would take to improve healthcare systems in the three most affected countries. This clearly emphasizes the importance of the dictum “Prevention is better than cure.”
“The world woke up to Ebola, but now people need to wake up to the scandal of weak health systems,” a Save the Children official was quoted.
Though the number of new cases of Ebola has drastically dropped, health experts, including the Dean at the A. M. Dogliotti Medical College at the University of Liberia, Vuyu Golakai, have warned that eradicating the last cases still pose a huge challenge.