West African nations that experienced low or zero incidence of Ebola have already been affected by the Ebola crisis because of their deep connections with the three most affected countries, according to a new UN report released here today.
“The consequences of Ebola are vast,” said Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, the Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa. “Stigma, risk aversion and shutting down of borders have caused considerable amounts of damage, affecting economies and communities in a large number of countries across the sub-region”.
According to the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), West Africa as a whole may lose an average of at least US$3.6 billion per year between 2014 and 2017, due to a decrease in trade, closing of borders, flight cancellations and reduced Foreign Direct Investment and tourism activity, fuelled by stigma.
This has also had an important impact on human development. The region’s per capita income
is expected to fall by US$18.00 per year between 2015 and 2017. In Côte d’Ivoire, the poverty rate has risen by at least 0.5 percentage points because of Ebola, while in Senegal, the proportion of people living below the national poverty line could increase by up to 1.8 percent in 2014. In addition, food insecurity in countries such as Mali, and Guinea-Bissau is expected to increase.
Citing the African Union’s efforts to send doctors from Nigeria and Ethiopia, coordinated efforts by the Mano River Union and ECOWAS’s Regional Solidarity Fund, the report calls for the increased involvement of West African governments and regional institutions to stop the epidemic and help the affected countries to recover.
In addition, the report says, preventing future outbreaks must involve a combination of regional and national interventions that include strengthening health sectors across the region, the immediate creation of a regional Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, coordinated border control and establishment of early warning and disaster management systems.
Such prevention efforts can draw on the experiences of countries such as Nigeria and Senegal, whose decentralized health systems played a key role in slowing down and eradicating transmission of the disease.
The document also calls for an integrated recovery package, which includes re-opening borders, creating effective social safety nets for affected and vulnerable populations. Improved regional and international cooperation will also be required to ensure recovery efforts gain momentum in the three most-affected countries.