11 Dec 2014
Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa
A laundry basket vendor on the streets of Monrovia, Liberia (Photo: Carly Learson/UNDP)
If the Ebola outbreak is not contained soon, most of the economic and social gains achieved since peace was restored in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and since Guinea’s democratic transition began, could be reversed.
In Liberia, 60% of markets are now closed; in Sierra Leone, only one-fifth of the 10,000 HIV patients who are on anti-retroviral treatments are still receiving them; and Guinea’s government is reporting a $220 million financing gap because of the crisis.
All three countries remain fragile, divided, and, as the current crisis highlights, uniquely prone to shocks. More broadly, the region’s current crisis should inspire reflection about how the world supports and advances development.
One important reason for these countries’ vulnerability is the consistent lack of investment in their populations, which has prevented ordinary citizens from reaping the benefits of economic growth.
The threat that Ebola poses in all three countries extends beyond health care. Throughout the region, a history of conflict and a legacy of poor governance have fueled a deep distrust of governments and state institutions, as indicated in a 2012 Afrobarometer survey. Indeed, these countries’ lack of an established social contract has been the main obstacle to establishing political authority and effective governance.