House Approves US$62.31 Million to Fight Ebola, Senate May Concur Today

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The House of Representatives of the 53rd National Legislature on Thursday, October 23, during its 15th day sitting of the Extraordinary Session, approved two Loan Agreements to the tone of US$62.31 million, as additional funding to fight the Ebola virus.

The Members of the House’s Plenary unanimously voted for the passage of the Loan Agreements after Deputy Chief Clerk J. Sayfura Geplay read the advisory from the Committees on Ways, Means and Finance and Judiciary to support the Ebola Sector Budget (ESB).

The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 5,500 people across West Africa, including 3,200 in Liberia. International donations have so far fallen well short of the amounts requested by UN agencies and aid organizations.

In the worst affected countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, about 9,000 people have been found to have the Ebola virus, which kills an estimated 70% of those infected.

The Loan Agreements, known as the African Development Fund (ADF) Loan Agreement for Ebola Sector Budget and the Transitional States Facility Loan Agreement for the Ebola Sector Budget Support, were submitted by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to get-rid of the deadly Ebola Virus Diseas (EVD).

In the communication to Speaker J. Alex Tyler, dated October 14, 2014, the Chief Executive said the country had experienced an economic slowdown owing to the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) with a potential growth rate falling to 2.5% from 5.9% for 2014.

The President stated that economic activities had  drastically declined and there are now shortfalls in domestic food production, mining, hospitality and transportation sectors.

“We have seen the fear of the virus causing adverse behavior that is having a cumulative effect of reduced revenue, while at the same time, there is an expansion in government’s expenditure demands,” the President wrote.

According to the financing agreements, the ADF Loan Agreement is for UA 35 million (approximately US$54.25 million), while the Transitional States Facility (TSF) Agreement amounts to UA 5.2 million (approximately US$8.06 million). UA stands for Unit of Account, which is the official currency of the African Development Bank. 

“Mr. Speaker and colleagues, we believe that the ratification of these financing agreements will create the fiscal space that is urgently needed to fight the epidemic and still continue our development,” the Committees urged their colleagues.

However, immediately after the passage of the US$62.31 Loan Agreements to fight Ebola, Speaker Tyler mandated Chief Clerk Mildred Siryon to convey the documents to the Liberian Senate in compliance of the 1986 Liberian Constitution.

According to a source in the office of the Secretary of Liberian Senate, the Loan Agreements are expected to be included on tomorrow’s agenda and there might be concurrence.

The Ebola virus spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.

A source in the Executive Mansion has disclosed that the Country is in need of a total of US$500 million to fight the virus and build a vibrant healthcare system in readiness to combat the virus or any other disease in the future.

The source said with Ebola gradually leaving the country, a lingering sense of uncertainty as to whether Liberians should not worry again for the reemerging of the virus or any other disease is authentic; therefore, the government must prepare for the challenge.

Meanwhile, it may be recalled that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appealed for more international help, describing the devastating effects of Ebola in a "Letter to the World" that was broadcast last Sunday by the BBC.

"Across West Africa, a generation of young people risk being lost to an economic catastrophe as harvests are missed, markets are shut and borders are closed," the President said. "The virus has been able to spread so rapidly because of the insufficient strength of the emergency, medical and military services that remain under-resourced."

"There is no coincidence Ebola has taken hold in three fragile states — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — all battling to overcome the effects of interconnected wars," President Sirleaf's letter said, adding that Liberia once had 3,000 medical doctors but by the end of its civil war, which ended 11 years ago, the country had just 36.”

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