With leaders of West African leaders from Ebola-hit nations in Washington, DC, this week for high-level talks on outbreak recovery, President Barack Obama yesterday urged international partners to stay committed to the fight against the disease and to stand ready to help the nations and their economies recover.
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group meetings begin tomorrow and run through Apr 19, with Ebola recovery on the agenda.
Obama rallies international support for recovery
In a briefing at the White House yesterday, flanked by presidents from the Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, Obama praised the courage and resolve West Africans have showed in taking care of each other, especially children and orphans. "The United States has been proud to lead an international effort to work with these three countries in a global response," he said in a statement.
However, Obama said the outbreak has also created an economic crisis. "There’s the challenge of restoring markets and agricultural growth, promoting investment and development, " he said. "So I’m going to be looking forward to hearing from them on how the United States can stand shoulder to shoulder with them to work hard to take this crisis and turn it into an opportunity to rebuild even stronger than before."
Oxfam calls for $1.7 billion to rebuild health systems
In a related development, the international relief group Oxfam today called on international donors to find $1.7 billion to bolster the "dangerously inadequate" health systems in the Ebola-affected countries to help prevent such a deadly epidemic from happening again.
Oxfam's statement comes on the even of the World Bank's annual spring meeting in Washington, DC.
In its statement, Oxfam said the $1.7 billion total is the minimum needed to make health care freely available in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and neighboring Guinea-Bissau, which is especially at risk given porous borders and poor resources.
The group estimated that the money, as part of a 10-year investment plan, would cover $420 million to train 9,020 doctors and 37,059 nurses and midwives to meet the World Health Organization (WHO) minimum care standards and $297 million to pay health workers' salaries.
Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International's executive director, said in the statement, "Solid commitments are desperately needed now to address public health failures that have contributed to more than 10,000 deaths and to prevent another deadly epidemic."
World Bank survey charts economic progress, challenges
Meanwhile, a recent World Bank survey of people in Liberia and Sierra Leone found that Liberians are continuing to return to work—especially wage workers and the self-employed—but signs of progress are less clear in Sierra Leone.
The findings are from the latest round of mobile-phone surveys conducted in both countries by the World Bank and its partners to gauge how the outbreak is affecting the region's people's ability to earn a living.
In Sierra Leone, employment for urban youth and the nonfarm self-employed sectors are lagging behind, according to the survey, outlined in a World Bank statement yesterday. It said the presidents of the three countries will share their Ebola recovery plans at the upcoming meeting.
Makhtar Diop, the World Bank's vice president for the Africa region, said in the statement, "Even as these countries implement their respective economic recovery plans, the long-term economic and social impacts of such a prolonged and devastating outbreak will undoubtedly put many families and communities at risk. We and our partners must continue to respond quickly and effectively to support those who need it most."
According to the survey, the overall unemployment level in Liberia has held steady since January, with a seasonal lull in agricultural work offset by gains in wage work and rural self-employment. It said women have experienced the steepest job losses, because the types of jobs they have—such as traders in markets— been most impacted by the outbreak.
It said Sierra Leone shows signs of improvement, but the economic situation is still uneven. Earning stability has depended on the type of employment sector, with household enterprises showing a 54% drop since last summer, women's occupations heavily impacted, and food insecurity still a concern for many people.
Apr 16 White House statement
Apr 16 Oxfam statement
Apr 15 World Bank press release