West African Ebola epidemic

For the first time in West Africa, a case of Ebola was confirmed on 21 March, three weeks after the first alert of a possible viral haemorrhagic fever emerged from Guinea’s Forest region. Photo: © EC/ECHO

An epidemic of Ebola that began in Guinea in March 2014 has now spread to neighbouring West African countries.


The outbreak is the most severe epidemic of the disease to have occurred to date, and has been declared an international emergency by the World Health Organization. As of 12 September 2014, the virus had claimed over 2,400 lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with a few cases occurring in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Senegal where three people have already died.


Beyond the death and suffering caused by the disease, the crisis could have lasting development consequences in the region, where many countries are still recovering from years of conflict and instability. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia is projected to lose $13 billion in lost GDP due to Ebola while individual livelihoods have shrunk due to lost wages and lost productivity. Economic growth has been affected as emerging sectors such as tourism, agriculture and private sector investment are reduced, and development programmes may have to be postponed or interrupted in affected areas.


At the same time, measures such as border containment, quarantine, airport screening, and appropriate protection for medical personnel could cost the governments of the region hundreds of millions of dollars from already stretched budgets.


UNDP and UN country teams are working closely with the World health Organization, which is coordinating the medical response to the disease, while UNICEF and UNFPA are leading on community outreach, mobilization and education.


In Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, UNDP is supporting governments to mobilize resources, understand the economic impact, plan the response, and conduct border surveillance and early warning activities to help contain the spread of the disease.

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