World cannot wait to act on recovery as it did on initial Ebola response
International agency Oxfam today called for a multi-million dollar post-Ebola ‘Marshall Plan’ to put the three West Africa countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea) hit by the crisis back on their feet. The agency said that the world cannot delay 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 sanitation.
The agency is calling for an international pledging conference to agree on 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 are struggling to make ends meet as their incomes plummet. 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.
One of the effects of lost income is an inability to buy food. Oxfam 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 that nearly 180,000 people have lost their jobs in Sierra Leone and that in Liberia, half of the heads of household are out of work. In Liberia, the World Bank found that job losses fell disproportionately on women. 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 average.
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 is planning 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.