One year on: AfDB’s support of Ebola-affected countries continues

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It has been one year since the World Health Organization officially announced the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa. Since March 23, 2014, the African Development Bank has played a prominent role in fighting back Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). The institution’s support of the three hardest-hit countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has never wavered.

In response to the Ebola crisis the AfDB disbursed US $223 million for nine operations in the West African region, launched an Ebola Response Fund alongside development partners and representatives from the private sector, and has contributed a further US $300-million into a road transport project for the Mano River countries aimed at strengthening infrastructure and the economy in the region.

Despite considerable progress made by the governments to reduce the number of confirmed new cases in the various countries, authorities are still grappling with the Ebola outbreak. As of March 25, 2015, more than 10,000 deaths have been reported since the outbreak began. A total of 79 new confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease were reported in the week leading up to March 22: the lowest weekly total in 2015, 45 of which were reported from Guinea and 33 of which were in Sierra Leone. Having reported no cases for three consecutive weeks, a new confirmed case was reported in Liberia on March 20.

At the sub-regional level, the three affected countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) have come together to develop a sub-regional recovery strategy, which emphasizes Getting to Zero in all three countries; restoring basic social services (especially health and education systems) that have been negatively impacted by EVD; and also coming up with medium- to long-term transformational interventions that will enable these countries to transition back to their pre-Ebola development trajectories.

The Bank is currently in the process of developing new projects that will support the recovery strategies of these countries both at the national and sub-regional levels.

According to Margaret Kilo, AfDB Resident Representative in Liberia (LRFO), the country has shown a strong commitment to defeat EVD and is looking into ways and means to reform the country’s health sector. Reporting specifically on the country’s new perspectives, Kilo explained that the health and education sectors are in desperate need of reform. “Lessons have been learned from the EVD fight with the various actors working innovatively to sort out critical situations,” she said. “Although the situation should soon be under control, what Liberia has learned chiefly about the health sector is that it needs to train health workers in innovative ways.”

Public information campaigns are also in place to remind local populations that the fight against EVD is not over. However, to achieve zero new case status there is a real need for improvements in health education, said AfDB Resident Representative in Sierra Leone, Yero Baldeh. 

On the ground in Sierra Leone, Baldeh noted that beyond its financing of efforts to fight back Ebola in the affected countries, the AfDB was valued for its expert advice. “Our institution is also strongly engaged in monitoring EVD interventions, as well as participating in sector dialogues with Government and other development partners, especially the front line agencies involved in the day-to-day implementation of Bank-funded interventions such as the World Health Organization, United Nations Population Fund and UNICEF,” Baldeh explained. 

For the past year, the Bank has participated in key strategic and planning meetings and provided advice in some of the key intervention areas such as payment of hazard allowances to workers and in the formulation of post-Ebola recovery strategies for Sierra Leone and also the Mano River Union sub-region as a whole.

The visit by AfDB President Donald Kaberuka to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the early days of the outbreak continues to be highlighted as a defining moment for the governments and citizens of those countries. “The appreciation is not only about the financial resources provided, but also the empathy demonstrated by the Bank, especially President Kaberuka, who visited the countries at the peak of the outbreak when everyone else was running away,” said Baldeh.

Kaberuka visited Liberia and Sierra Leone in August 2014, and Guinea in October 2014 alongside Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chair of the African Union (AU) Commission, and Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

In mid-March 2015, AfDB Corporate Services Vice-President, Sue Wardell, lead two back-to-back Bank missions to Liberia and Sierra Leone to reiterate the Bank’s support to the affected countries. During the mission, Wardell meet with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, and key frontline actors in the Ebola crisis, including representatives from the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), Doctors without Borders (Médecins sans Frontières), and the International Rescue Committee.