Ebola Crisis in West Africa

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is destroying lives, decimating communities, and orphaning children at a rate not seen since the region’s civil wars ended more than a decade ago. Death and suffering caused by the disease are only the beginning of the story. If the outbreak is not contained soon, most of the economic and social gains achieved since peace was restored in Liberia and Sierra Leone and Guinea’s democratic transition began could be reversed.

Highlights

  • According to UN Women, women account for 75% of Ebola-related fatalities in Liberia. In Sierra Leone, women comprise 59% of Ebola-related deaths.
  • In Liberia, 60 percent of markets are now closed and half of the mining and palm oil concessions have reduced their activity.
  • In Sierra Leone, only one-fifth of the 10,000 HIV patients who are on anti-retroviral treatments are still receiving them due to the current lack of health personnel available for non-Ebola related medical cases and emergencies.
  • Guinea’s government is reporting a $220 million financing gap because of the crisis.

The epidemic is slowing down economic growth and closing down businesses, affecting the means of making a living of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the region. It is also putting pressure on government budgets, limiting their capacity to provide basic services for their populations. In addition, the crisis is eroding trust among communities, stigmatizing victims and survivors, and destroying confidence in health and government services. A vast coalition of partners is now mobilized to help affected countries end the disease. At the same time, the challenge is to help those countries and communities recover from the long-term impact of the crisis.

What is UNDP doing?

UNDP’s is currently focusing on three priorities to respond to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa: (1) enable stronger coordination and service delivery, (2) foster community mobilization and outreach, which includes fighting stigma, (3) respond to the socio-economic impact of Ebola through our early recovery process. We are making 130 extra personnel available to boost the organization’s response to boost the organization’s response and help contain the disease. As part of our immediate response to end the spread of Ebola, we are also working with UN Volunteeers on contact tracings, transmission prevention measures and outreach campaigns.

As part of the overall UNMEER and UN response, we are the lead UN agency on the coordination of payments to Ebola workers. Through the “The Payment of Ebola Workers Programme,” UNDP has an overall coordination role in payments to over 100,000 Ebola workers including treatment center staff and lab technicians, contacts tracers and burial teams, via already-existing payment systems. We are also working with governments and partners to establish information management systems and strengthen existing payment methods as needed, and are leading on a rolling diagnosis, monitoring and risk analysis of the payment systems in all three affected countries.

Since the outbreak began, UNDP economists have been assessing the development impact of Ebola. Findings from the impact studies have resulted in a series of policy notes on the disease’s impact on fiscal space and development spending, which will be used to inform recovery plans.
As part of our early recovery efforts, we are focusing on protection and improvement of livelihoods of affected individuals, which include the infected and their families, survivors and those who have lost relatives. We are especially focusing on women, families who have lost “bread winners” to the disease, and families supporting orphaned children. We’ve been procuring “Solidarity Kits,” containing basic items for personal hygiene, clothes, blankets, mattresses, food, and other household goods. The kits are distributed through our partners to help survivors rebuild their home assets once they return home from treatment centers. Over the short to medium term, we will strengthen the resilience of households and communities at risk to Ebola through livelihoods and economic recovery programmes.

To date, UNDP’s support in the three affected countries include:

In Guinea, we are working with a network of youth leaders, faith-based community leaders, and national volunteers on door-to-door information campaigns, transmission prevention measures, and the organization of public outreach sessions.

In Sierra Leone, we have been working with security and human rights institutions to train national security personnel on managing roadblocks and quarantines which respect human and civil rights. We’re working with media on both Ebola prevention messaging and ensuring continuity of education services while schools remain closed. As a result, school children are currently able to access their curriculums through their local radio channels, while school closures remain in effect due to Ebola. Working with local youth and community leaders and groups, our community engagement campaigns for Ebola prevention and sensitization have reached 500,000 people, including those identified most “at risk.”

In Liberia, since the onset of the crisis, we have been deepening community engagement and boosting institutional capacity of key national partners by improving access to services.  To date, we have provided over US$450,000 worth of chlorine reserves, bio-hazard protective gear for use by the Liberian National Police, emergency vehicles to assist health workers and burial teams, along with other critical supplies such as telecommunications equipment, thermostats and other logistical tools to ensure the national police can rapidly communicate between border posts and central command in Monrovia.  Our logistical support to police and immigration services currently focuses on strengthening national response and securing borders to prevent the further spread of Ebola.

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