By Ballah M. Kollie, LINA

The World Bank Group (WBG) has announced US$650 million as additional support to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone for the next 12 to 18 months to help them recover from the impact of the Ebola crisis.

The new funding will be used to strengthen priority areas in health systems and frontline care, agriculture, education, cash transfers and other social protection programs, which include lifesaving infrastructure such as electricity, water, sanitation and roads.

The funds will also be used to develop a regional disease surveillance system across West Africa that will help prevent or contain future pandemics.

The new WBG pledge brings the organization’s total financing for Ebola response and recovery efforts to US$1.62 billion.

Other commitments announced include $300 million from the African Development Bank, $80 million from GAVI, and $387 million from the Global Fund through 2017 for the worst Ebola affected countries in the sub region.

This is in addition to previously committed funding to the Ebola response and recovery efforts from the United States, United Kingdom, and many other development partners, which represents a substantial investment in support of the national plans.
The President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim, emphasized the need for tireless engagement to help Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone get to zero new Ebola case.

He said reaching a zero new Ebola case will help the three countries jumpstart their recovery and build a safer, more prosperous and resilient future for their people.

“Many of us have acknowledged that the international community was slow to react to Ebola adding let’s show that we have learned this lesson by supporting an effective and sustainable recovery that also prepares these countries-and the rest of the world-for the next pandemic,” Kim said in a statement from the World Bank.

Since the WBG issued its last economic update on January 20, 2015, it says important differences among the three countries are emerging.

The WBG new report has found that Sierra Leone is now facing a severe recession with the potential for an unprecedented -23.5% growth rate in 2015, resulting from financial issues that led to the closure of iron ore mining.

The report noted a gradual return of Liberia to normalcy, with a projected GDP growth rate of 3%.

The report further shows that the Ebola epidemic continues to cripple the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

An estimated GDP losses for the three countries in 2015 rose to US$2.2 billion: US$240 million for Liberia, US$535 million for Guinea and US$1.4 billion for Sierra Leone.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the week leading up to April 12, there were a total of 37 confirmed cases of Ebola, compared with 30 the previous week in Guinea and Sierra Leone.

There has been no case reported in Liberia for the past three weeks.