Ebola Crisis in West Africa

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is rapidly destroying lives, decimating communities, and orphaning children in the affected countries. However, death and suffering are only part of the crisis. 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. In October, the disease also appeared in Mali, where authorities, assisted by the United Nations and other partners, are now working to prevent its spread.


  • According to UNFPA, an estimated 800,000 women will give birth in 2015 in the three countries, but some 120,000 of them may die from lack of access to emergency obstetrics care, while health services have been diverted toward Ebola response.
  • 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 on anti-retroviral treatments are still receiving them due to the current lack of health personnel available for non-Ebola care.
  • 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 response to the crisis is focusing on three priorities:                  
•    Stronger coordination and service delivery;
•    Community mobilization and outreach;
•    Socio-economic impact and recovery.

Coordination and service delivery                                                         

As part of the overall UNMEER and UN response, we are the lead UN agency on the coordination of payments to Ebola workers.  UNDP will help to track payments and improve the systems through which they are being delivered to treatment center staff, lab technicians, contacts tracers and burial teams.

Community mobilization and outreach                                              

We are working with communities, through local leaders and networks of volunteers, to identify cases, trace contacts and educate people on how the disease is spread and how to avoid contracting it. We are also raising awareness, including among People Living With Disabilities, of how important it is to fight stigma, reintegrate survivors and support their families.

Socio-economic impact and recovery                                                 

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, UNDP will also make welfare payments to vulnerable communities affected by the disease, focusing on survivors and families who lost relatives or are helping orphaned children, as well as those who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the crisis.

Country examples:

In Guinea, UNDP is working with youth, religious and women leaders on door-to-door information campaigns, in addition to helping them do contact tracing and identify new infections and orphaned children. Along the border with Mali, we are also equipping border checkpoints and public places with thermometers and sanitation gear, while reaching out to people on how to protect themselves.

In Sierra Leone, UNDP helped the Office of National Security to roll out new Standard Operational Procedures for 2,000 security forces working at checkpoints and quarantined neighborhoods across the country, training them on how to respect human rights and communicate with courtesy. UNDP provided technical assistance to the government to pay more than 12,000 Ebola response workers, in addition to reaching out to hundreds of thousands through neighborhood campaigns.

In Liberia, we provided vehicles, medical gear, telecommunication equipment and chlorine reserves for use by local counties and police. UNDP is also working with the Ministry of Health to ensure health workers are paid on time and to recruit thousands of community workers to identify Ebola cases.

In Mali, UNDP is helping the Ministry of Health’s national Ebola coordination unit to better report and manage cases. We are procuring computer and medical equipment, improving data networks, and helping to train case finders and contact tracers.

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Photo essay
A disease spread through love and sympathy

UNDP staff visits communities to hear the stories of those who have fought the disease and those who are still affected to find out the best way to help them.

In Pictures: UNDP on the Frontlines of the Ebola Crisis
  • Community Health Volunteers with Ebola prevention kits walking through West Point in Monrovia, Liberia
  • UNDP on the frontlines of the Ebola crisis in West Africa
  • UNDP on the frontlines of the Ebola crisis in West Africa

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