Urgent action needed on Ebola to prevent reversal of years of development gains

Sep 25, 2014


Massive assistance for affected countries is needed to prevent Ebola from shutting down economies and reversing years of development efforts, said Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at a high-level event at the United Nations on the deadly disease.

“A response of the scope, scale and speed needed for this complex emergency with its significant political, social, economic, and security dimensions requires urgent and co-ordinated global action”, she said, adding that the crisis if unchecked would reverse development gains in the most-affected countries and in the region.

Helen Clark was speaking at a meeting convened by the United Nations Secretary-General in New York to take stock of global efforts in the fight against Ebola, which has already claimed more than 2,800 lives in West Africa.  

Beyond the death and suffering caused by the disease, the crisis could have lasting development consequences in the region, where a number of countries are still recovering from years of conflict and instability.

The World Bank estimates that economic growth for the affected countries could decrease between 2.1 and 3.4 per cent in 2014, reaching almost twelve per cent for Liberia in 2015 in the worst-case scenario.

The crisis is reducing government revenues and deepening unemployment as key economic sectors such as mining and agriculture slow down.

In addition, overstretched governments are now struggling to provide basic services. In Liberia, for instance, vaccination coverage is reported to have declined by fifty per cent by July, while temporary school closures have occurred in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

Compounding the health crisis, fear has contributed to the isolation of communities, disrupting supplies and the movement of people.

“There is a need to strengthen the capacities of the national institutions which are needed to fight Ebola”, Helen Clark said.

On 18 September, the United Nations Security Council announced the creation of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) to scale up the international response to the disease.

UNDP has been reprioritizing its local programmes; providing logistical support to emergency teams; helping to co-ordinate the work of international partners, local governments and UN agencies; working with security forces to help manage borders to contain the disease; and supporting public outreach efforts aimed at prevent the further spread of the disease. The organisation is also mobilizing teams of economists to get a better sense of the economic impact of the crisis, helping to pave the way for early recovery activities.

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