World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim says the world community is united with West Africa and Liberia in a concerted global effort to safeguard lives in the wake of an Ebola outbreak, noting “we are with you and will stand by you.”
He said over many years, the world community “has failed to make [basic health care] accessible to low-income people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. So now thousands of people in these countries are dying because, in the lottery of birth, they were born in the wrong place.”
Dr. Kim made the remarks at a special organized meeting with the Liberia delegation on the sidelines of the World Bank and IMF annual meetings convening in Washington DC, USA.
“We are with you. The international response was slow from the beginning. It took long time to get to you, but be assured that we are with you,” Dr. Kim said and added, “If we have the local health people to do the work on the ground, let them to do it. What has happened in the past is that there has been low expectation.”
The outspoken Bank President told the Liberian delegation more focus would be placed on stopping Ebola, adding, “All of us at global level failed first, but now, we are with you. What we are trying to do is not to fail you. We cannot allow to fail you.”
He warned that if much is not done and soon, the infection would continue to spread to other countries and even continents, “as we have seen with the first Ebola case in the United States this past week. This pandemic shows the deadly cost of unequal access to basic services and the consequences of our failure to fix this problem.”
According to him, as a consequence, the ability to boost shared prosperity in West Africa — and potentially the entire continent — may be quickly disappearing. Dr. Kim lamented that the world’s response to date has been inadequate, and that it has been painful to see a replay old failures from previous epidemics.
He promised the delegation that the Bank would continue to remain engaged with the affected countries, noting “overall, we have pledged $400 million to support treatment and containment. And we have devoted our considerable analytical resources to show that acting now will save hundreds of millions, if not tens of billions of dollars.”
The meeting comes at a time when Liberia is experiencing the worst ever outbreak of the “Ebola Virus Disease” (EVD), which has claimed many lives, posing further risk of exposure to the larger population and a severe impact on the economy.
Earlier, Liberia’s Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Amara Konneh highlighted government’s current challenge and the gains that have been recorded so far in the fight against Ebola, but warned a lot more is needed to be done.
“We need to revamp the entire health sector. Our health system has been affected greatly. The economy which was projected at 5.9 percent has now come down to one percent. It is in recession,” Minister Konneh informed the Bank President. Hecalled on the international community not to forget about the economic consequences. “We want to fight Ebola and at the sometime we want for to finish quickly so we can start the recovery process so that our citizens can regain their livelihood.”
Minister Konneh explained that the service sector was the hardest hit which is declining significantly to some 10 percent. “We have to achieve two things; To Tell the Liberian story in the context of the MRU story, to mobilize for an effective resources for an effective response for the Ebola the virus and at the same time strengthen the health care delivery system.
He encouraged the Bank and other partners to increase their support to the affected countries, looking beyond the aftermath of the crisis. “We want quality healthcare for our people but even after Ebola, communities devastated by this outbreak will need to rebuild, accelerate economic activity and drive back livelihood.”
He thanked the Bank and other partners for the level of support so far, which he says is boosting government’s Ebola response activities.
Minister Konneh and delegation including the Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Dr. Mills Jones, Dr. Francis Kateh, of the Ministry of Health and Representative Munah Pelham are scheduled to hold series of multilateral and bilateral discussions aimed at rallying support for the government’s “National Ebola Response Strategy.”
With the latest death toll from Ebola now at 3,439 in the three worst-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, a new economic impact assessment from the World Bank Group says that if the epidemic was to significantly infect people in neighboring countries, some of which have much larger economies, the two-year regional financial impact could reach US$32.6 billion by the end of 2015.