Ebola: new report gives the bad news – and the good

In this photo health workers prepare to place the body of a man who was suspected of dying from the Ebola virus into a grave on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia. Picture: Abbas Dulleh/AP

Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia’s external debts should be cancelled so the three countries can deal with the financial whammy they’ve been dealt by Ebola.

That’s according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECO), which has just released its latest report on the socio-economic impacts of Ebola on the continent.

Here are some of the key things you should know from the report:

1. Grim toll

This year’s outbreak has marked the highest Ebola death toll since the disease was first diagnosed in 1976. The death toll this week is at 6 055 confirmed deaths, with 17 111 identified cases. Guinea has the highest mortality rate – 61% of its 2164 cases have been fatal.

2. The money’s rolling in – but...

Countries, individuals and organisations are donating hundreds of millions of dollars, but the full amounts are slow to materialise in affected countries’ coffers. For instance, less than a quarter of the $345 million committed by the United States have actually been handed over.

Here are the contributions to Ebola outlined in UNECO’s report.

The percentages indicate how much of the money has actually been paid over so far.

*Bilateral Partners

•US $345 million; 24.6%

•Japan $142 million; 14.4%

•Germany $134 million; 20.2%

•France $124 million; 37.8%

•China $123 million; 6.5%

•Sweden $67 million; 13.2%

•Canada $58 million; 88.1%

•Netherlands $45 million; 15.2%

•Australia $36 million; 38.2%

*African private sector

•The Motsepe Foundation $1.0 million

•Kola Karim CEO of Nigerian conglomerate Shoreline Energy $1.0 million

•Tony Elumelu Foundation $0.6 million

•The United Bank for Africa (UBA) $1.0 million

•Stenbeck Family $1.0 million

•Afrixim Bank $1.0 million

•Coca Cola Eurasia and Africa $1.0 million

•Vitol Group of Companies and Vivo Energy $1.0 million

*Some African countries’ pledges

•Botswana $0.2 million

•Côte d’Ivoire $1.0 million

•Equatorial Guinea $2.0 million

•Ethiopia $0.5 million

•Kenya $1.0 million

•Namibia $1.0 million

•Nigeria $3.5 million

•South Africa $0.3 million

3. How to help

UNECO suggests that Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, which have been hardest hit by the disease, should provide fiscal safety nets to help victims’ families and their communities. They say authorities should cut interest rates to boost growth and keep borders open to attract more visitors and business – with border health checks, they believe this is possible. Farmers should be incentivised to relaunch the countries’ agricultural sectors.

4. Stigma deepening

UNECO says fewer people are seeking medical attention because they fear more exposure to the disease and the stigma of diagnosis.

5. An unhealthy ripple effect

Ebola places increasing pressure on under-resourced medical facilities, which means other viruses and diseases spike and can’t be properly treated. UNECO is very worried about maternal and infant mortality rates in affected countries.

6. Getting back to basics

In its study, UNECO suggests that healthcare services be decentralised so that the response to Ebola can be quicker. It also says governments must guard against a food or nutritional crisis and ensure that children go back to school.

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