Ebola could set back development, says UN

07 Aug 2014

imageEbola in West Africa poses great threat to development (Photo: UNDP)

The UN says action will be needed to protect vulnerable communities and their development achievements from the potential long-term effects of Ebola in West Africa.

The largest ever outbreak of the disease has now claimed hundreds of lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with a few cases in Nigeria.

Beyond the number of casualties, the present health crisis will have lasting economic and social consequences in countries recovering from years of conflict and instability. “Some of these countries were showing encouraging economic growth rates and development progress after long periods of turmoil,” says Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, the Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa.

 “This could set them on a backward path. Emerging sectors such as tourism, agriculture and private sector investment could take a hit, and development programmes may have to be interrupted in the affected areas, which need them the most.”

 In addition, measures such as border containment, quarantine, airport screening, and appropriate protection for medical personnel could cost the healthcare sectors in the region hundreds of millions of much needed dollars”.

 The United Nations Development Programme and UN country teams are working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) which is taking charge of the medical response, while UNICEF and UNFPA are leading on community outreach, mobilization and education.

 • In Liberia, UNDP is supporting the national Ebola task force to mobilize resources, plan the response and conduct border surveillance and early warning activities.

• In Sierra Leone, the UN system is working with the government to establish an Ebola Emergency Centre. UNDP efforts to improve and reform the country’s security sector will be redirected to help manage borders to contain the disease;

• In Nigeria, UNDP is mobilizing US$ 1.5 million to support government efforts to gather and manage information on the disease;   

• In Guinea, UNDP is helping the government’s national crisis committee to plan country-wide operations and has brought teams from Sierra Leone and Liberia together with the Guinean government to formulate a regional response plan.

UNDP will also launch a regional project to help Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone tackle the epidemic jointly, with a focus on border areas. In addition, UNDP economists will study the potential financial impact of the crisis on livelihoods in all three countries.

WHO has launched a new US$ 100 million response plan to stop the spread of the disease and prevent future outbreaks, while the World Bank has announced that it would contribute $200 million to contain infections, help their communities cope with the economic impact of the crisis, and improve public health systems.

For more information:

Karim Bah

Communications Officer

UNDP - Sierra Leone

Email: abdul-karim.bah@undp.org