Oxfam International called for a multi-million dollar post-Ebola Marshall Plan to put the three West Africa countries hit by the crisis back on their feet. The agency said that the world cannot dither on putting the countries’ economies on an inclusive growth plan as it did on the Ebola response. Key to the success of any recovery package will be addressing three areas of acute need: immediate cash to millions of families affected by the crisis, investment in jobs and budget support for essential services such as health, education, water and
The agency is calling for an international pledging conference to agree recovery plans backed by generous support from rich countries to help efforts to rebuild lives and put the economies back on the road to growth.
“People need cash in their hands now,” said Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. “They need good jobs to feed their families in the near future and decent health, education and other essential services. They’ve gone through hell; they cannot be left high and dry.” Byanyima further stated that even though cases of this deadly disease are dropping, failure to help these countries after surviving Ebola will condemn them to a double-disaster. “The world was late in waking up to the Ebola crisis, there can be no excuses for not helping to put these economies and lives back together,” he said.
Oxfam’s research in three Liberian counties found that 73 percent of families have seen their incomes decline, with an average income drop of 39 percent.
This week when Africa’s leaders will gather at the African Union Summit, Oxfam is calling for significant decisions on Ebola. Oxfam South Africa’s Executive Director Sipho Mthathi spoke said, “the AU Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA) team, deployment of almost eight hundred critical medical personnel into the three hardest hit countries, and the raising of substantial financial and material contributions from African countries and Africa’s private sector has helped to change the end game for this epidemic. Now the African Union must use all of its influence to ensure continued vigilance from its Members.”
Mthathi further said t that this disaster might have been avoided if African governments had made free public health care and spent more on their health systems, under the commitment they made fourteen years ago in the Abuja Declaration.
“It’s clear that Africa’s existing architecture for early disease detection, response and control is wholly inadequate,” he said. “At the very least, the AU must act this week to approve the plans for its own African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention,”
According to the agency one of the effects of lost income is an inability to buy food. It has found 60 percent of people said they had not had enough food in the past seven days. One in four said this was due to a decline in income, one in five said because of high food prices. To cope with this, people have been
relying on the generosity of friends and relatives, choosing less expensive food, limiting portion sizes, reducing the number of meals eaten a day and restricting adult consumption in order to allow children to eat.
Since the Ebola outbreak the World Bank estimates nearly 180,000 people have lost their jobs in Sierra Leone and in Liberia half of heads of household are out of work. In Liberia, the World Bank found that job losses fell disproportionately on women with more women losing their jobs than men. The loss of income is exacerbated by rises in the price of food. In Liberia the price of rice has risen 40 percent above its seasonal
Poverty rates in Ebola-hit countries were already high. In Sierra Leone 56 percent of the population were living under the poverty line, some 64 percent were under the poverty line in Liberia and 40 percent in Guinea.
Before the Ebola crisis, Liberia and Sierra Leone were two of the fastest growing economies in Africa with annual growth rates of over five percent for Liberia and a staggering projected growth rate of 11.3 percent for Sierra Leone. Both countries were coming from a low economic base due to years ravaged by war. Guinea’s pre Ebola projected growth rate for 2104 was 4.5 percent.
Oxfam furthermore pledges to increase its work to help communities recover from the crisis while still maintaining its Ebola prevention work. It is planning to give substantial cash grants to vulnerable families and rehabilitate water and sanitation facilities. So far in its response to the Ebola crisis Oxfam has helped 650,000 people in Sierra Leone, 445,000 in Liberia, and 33,000 in Mali. It has helped a further 15,000 people with preventative work in Guinea Bissau, Gambia, and Senegal.
Photo: Ruben Sprich/Reuters