Yesterday, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, spoke at the World Bank’s High Level Meeting on the Impact of the Ebola Crisis. She was joined by the Presidents of Guinea and Sierra Leone to provide perspectives from their affected countries. The World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund Annual Meeting utilized the gathering of Finance and Development Ministers to bring greater global urgency and action to the Ebola crisis response.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf shared Liberia’s specific top challenges and immediate health and social economic needs. Since the end of the civil war Liberia has made remarkable headway in its post conflict development and started seeing progress and improvements in implementing its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The government’s development agenda has now been interrupted by the outbreak of the Ebola virus which has outpaced the country’s ability to contain the disease. Liberia only has 119 doctors to serve its population of 4 million and the Ebola outbreak has further reduced the number of available health care workers. Out of the 2,199 reported Ebola deaths, 92 of them have been health care workers.
"WE NEED MORE RESOURCES FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF COMMUNITY CARE CENTERS WITH OWNERSHIP AND PARTICIPATION BY COMMUNITIES THEMSELVES."
President Sirleaf echoed much of what Liberia Philanthropy Secretariat (LPS) has been advocating the last few weeks. She spoke about the urgent need to construct Ebola treatment, testing and burying centers staffed with health care workers. At LPS, we have shared with many of our partners the need to drive philanthropic dollars towards community based initiatives. In Liberia, people trust and turn to their local community leaders and clinics far more than the larger institutions. These institutions need to be strengthened and empowered.
"WE MUST MITIGATE THE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES OF THE EBOLA CRISIS."
All major and desperately needed development projects have been put on hold due to the crisis. Every government agency and some local NGOs have turned their focus towards stopping the spread of the Ebola virus. This means projects like the Hydro, which would have electrified all of Monrovia and other parts of the country thus contributing to economic growth, have been put on hold. Other major infrastructure projects such as road constructions, modernizing our ports and clean water initiatives which would have helped to improve access to health care have also been put on hold. The already struggling local economy has slowed down to a crawl. The World Bank estimates that Liberia’s GDP in 2014 will drop from 5.9 percent to 2.5 percent. Inflation and food prices are increasing thus snowballing the vulnerability of the poor. At LPS, we are advocating for dual prong support comprising aggressive support initiatives which are helping to stop the spread of Ebola while also supporting grassroots and community initiatives that can help to spur activity in the local economy.
It was encouraging to see philanthropic organizations like the Open Society Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation actively participating in these meetings. The world is starting to understand that the Ebola outbreak is not just a West African problem but a global threat that needs to be stopped.