"EBOLA was like a war in our countries," Guinea’s President Alpha Condé told the World Bank last year as he outlined the havoc that had been wrought by the rapid spread of the virus in the West African country.
At a meeting last April to seek funds for reconstruction, he was joined by the presidents of the other two worst-affected nations — Liberia and Sierra Leone. The leaders, who had been battling the spread of the virus for more than a year by then, outlined the devastating effect the health crisis had on their countries, WRITES DIANNA GAMES.
Published in Business Day SA, 4 January 2016
In addition to more than 11,000 deaths, health systems collapsed, expatriate managers and contractors fled, agriculture almost collapsed, trade dried up, international travel connections were cut and revenues shrunk. Fear and superstition pervaded communities.
Dire predictions of the spread of the virus across the region were made by experts, with the World Bank suggesting the financial impact on the region by the end of last year might be a huge $32.6bn. But last week, there was some good news — Guinea was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organisation, the last of the three countries at the epicentre of the disaster to be cleared. The last known case there was on November 16. The announcement was made 42 days later — twice the virus’s maximum incubation period. Sierra Leone was declared virus-free earlier in November.
Although the first case of Ebola emerged in Guinea, fewer people died there, with 2,500 casualties compared to 9,000 in neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone. Dozens of health workers also lost their lives elsewhere in Africa and on other continents. Guinea is now undergoing a 90-day period of "heightened surveillance" to ensure vigilance is maintained after the hard-won battle. Liberia, for example, found new cases after the country was twice declared Ebola-free. But, critically, Guinea and the other two nations can now start implementing Ebola-recovery programmes.
The effect on growth has been catastrophic. According to the International Monetary Fund, Liberia’s economic growth in 2014 was 0.7%, significantly less than 2013’s 8.9%. Growth in Guinea has stagnated at about 0.4%, while Sierra Leone is facing severe recession.