West African economy may lose $15b due to Ebola – UN

Ebola2The impact of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), on the economy of the entire West African region might lead to a loss of about $15 billion over the next three years, according to a report by the United Nations Development Group, West and Central Africa.

The report, the first ever to undertake an assessment of the EVD for each of the 15 West African countries, also assessed the impact of the disease on poverty and food security.

The report noted that in the best-case scenario, West Africa may lose on average $3.6 billion per year for the next three years before the economies start to recover.

The worst-case scenario predicts losses of up to $4.9 billion per year over three years, with the bulk of the impact felt by the three worst affected countries, said the report released on Thursday March 12, 2015.

According to the report, with the intensity of the pandemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and even if it is restricted to these three most affected countries, a long-term propagation of EVD in these countries will have a substantial impact on all West African economies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported over 23 000 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of EVD in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; with over 9000 reported deaths; adding that the outcomes for many cases were unknown.

Its findings, the study notes, reveal earlier results on the three epicentre countries, which it says are more pronounced given the intensified EVD cases and fatalities.

“In the medium term (2014-2017), the gains in economic growth of the past decade seem to have been reversed,” it says.

The report indicates that the loss ranges from annual average of 4.9 percent (low Ebola scenario) to 9.6 percent (high Ebola scenario) for Guinea, 13.7 to 18.7 percent for Liberia, 6.0 to 8.0 percent for Sierra Leone. The actual loss in GDP for the low Ebola scenario is highest in Sierra Leone (US$219 million), followed by Liberia (US$188 million) and Guinea (US$184 million). For the high scenario, it ranges from US$315 million (Guinea) to US$245 million (Liberia), while Sierra Leone could lose as much as an annual average of around 7.1 percent between 2014 and 2017. The loss in per capita income is highest in Liberia. The toll on the GDP is considerable in the three countries lightly affected by the EVD.

On annual average during 2014-2017 for the low scenario, it indicates that the loss ranges from US$81.6 million (Mali) to US$145.2 million (Senegal) and US$1.4 billion (Nigeria).

For the remaining West African countries that are EVD-free, the loss in the GDP growth varies from 0.1 to 4 percentage points, it says.

“The loss of GDP for the whole region for the low scenario will be US$3.6 billion on average per year (i.e. 1.2% of the average GDP of the region). It could also lose around US$18 per capita per year. This is a substantial economic loss to a region that is struggling to catch up with other sub-regions of the world to translate past growth into improved living conditions for its people,” the report states.

On pledges, the report notes that as of 31 December 2015, only one third of the pledges was disbursed, and a substantial part of the disbursement came in October when the pandemic had already devastated lives and livelihoods.

“The slow pace of converting pledges to commitment calls for immediate correction. Fulfilling the pledges is vital to ending the pandemic and accelerating early recovery,” it says and called on the international community to establish a mechanism that would allow rapid disbursement of funds during public health threats like Ebola.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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