Executive Directors of the African Development Bank Group on Friday, February 13, 2015 in Abidjan discussed the imperative to eradicate the Ebola Virus Disease, which has affected nearly 23,000 and killed over 9,000 people in West Africa (mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia).
Reviewing the Bank’s efforts to contain the disease, the AfDB Board members observed that the disease has in effect exposed the weaknesses of healthcare and related systems in the countries concerned in particular and on the African continent as a whole.
Ebola first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks at Nzara, Sudan, and Yambuku near the Ebola River (from which the disease derived its name) in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Prior to 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) recorded 12 other occurrences and reoccurrences of the disease in Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, South Africa, Uganda, and Congo-Brazzaville.
The current outbreak in West Africa is considered to be the largest and most complex of its kind. It can be traced back to a single case in December 2013 in Guinea, after which it spread across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia; and through one traveller to Nigeria, and to Senegal and Mali, where it was eventually contained with no new cases reported.
Although the disease was reported to have substantially declined toward the end of 2014, new outbreaks in previously unaffected areas have been reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone in the past two weeks.
The reported resurgence of Ebola is an indication that counters measures are needed to be strengthened underscoring the need for a sector-wide strategy within and across countries to tackle the disease in the medium and long term.
Two presentations made by senior Bank staff provided a graphic picture of the Ebola situation in West Africa, its pervasive impact and the Bank’s leadership role in efforts to contain the disease.
The presentations also illustrated how the most active segment of the labour force, including women (who drive many economic sectors and who run the risk of being infected as primary care-givers), in the countries concerned are being “decimated”.
Agriculture and education are among the worst-hit areas, with economic losses estimated at US $113 million (5.1% of GDP) for Liberia; US $95 million (2.1% of GDP) for Sierra Leona and US $120 million (1.8% of GDP) for Guinea.
Several Board Members commended management and staff for leading the fight to contain Ebola by mobilising a total of US $223 million that complemented national and international efforts in addition to coordinating dialogues and strategies at national and global levels.
They urged management to leverage the AfDB’s convening power to bring other development partners together and coordinate actions that would help build structures to contain the disease definitively.