Launching in West Africa of the Report on the Socio-Economic Impacts of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Africa
Niamey, December 26, 2014 (ECA). Under the auspices of the Ministry of Planning, Land Improvement and Community Development, the Sub-Regional Office of West Africa for the Economic Commission for Africa proceeded on Wednesday, December 26, 2014 in Niamey, Niger, with the launching of the Report on the Study of Socio-economic Impacts of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) on Africa. The Ministry’s Chief of Staff, Mr. Abdou Soumana, who presided over the ceremony on behalf of the Minister of State who was unable to attend, first thanked the ECA which had conducted this high quality scientific study and expressed the compassion and solidarity of the Government of Niger for the countries affected. He then expressed his pleasure on the choice of Niger to host this launching.
The Chief of Staff also called on all Africans and people of good will to “do more together to stop the stigmatization of Africa”. In this combat against stigmatization, he added, “we must not leave anything to chance or wait for negative publicity in the international media before taking action. We must be pro-active and express and translate the reality of our history”. He then reassured the many participants at the ceremony that Africa had drawn good lessons from this epidemic and, bolstered by this experience, could in the future halt any other similar epidemic.
The highlight of this launching ceremony was the presentation of the Report by the Director of the Sub-Regional Office of West Africa for the Economic Commission for Africa, Dr. Dimitri Sanga. In his presentation, Dr. Sanga noted that since the beginning of the epidemic, several studies have been conducted on its development and its impacts. However, the special aspect of the study by the ECA is the fact that it goes beyond the limited context of West Africa to address the implications for the African continent as a whole, whereas the preceding studies were generally limited to the three countries affected. Even more important, Dr. Sanga continued, the study dispelled not only the myths and disinformation around the epidemic, but it has especially contributed to bringing out the major facts on several fronts in order to help African decision-makers and other actors to make enlightened decisions and to take action during this critical period in order to prevent such epidemics in the future.
According to Dr; Sanga, the Report of the study shows that the epidemic of the Ebola virus disease which afflicts West Africa and particularly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia is the worst since the appearance of the virus in Africa in 1976. It is the most serious in terms of victims. The losses of human lives and their effects on the survivors are immeasurable. In effect, beyond the human losses which come to 6055 deaths, according to a report of the World Health Organization dating from December 2014 and the numbers of which currently exceed 7000 cases, this epidemic which persists in time and space, is beginning to have severe repercussions both economically and socially on the countries affected, all the more so in that they form a part of a region which was the driver of the remarkable economic growth that the continent experienced since the last decade and which has propelled Africa to the world stage of economic performance.
He underlined that the economic costs of the epidemic will exceed the amounts allocated to the efforts to contain and halt it. In effect, the ECA report shows that we should expect a reduction by several percentage points in the growth of GDP, with all the consequences that this will have on social dimensions. This reduction can be attributed to, among other things, the decrease in mining operations; to disturbances in agricultural activities with effects on expected harvests; to restrictions on domestic and cross-border trade; to the decrease in travel and tourism; to moratoria on negotiated and expected financing; to the reallocation of public funds to efforts to eradicate the epidemic; to the reduction of the tax base; and to the decrease in investments following the panic that accompanied the epidemic. To all this, the speaker noted, should be added the decline of the educational system, the rise in unemployment and the closure of businesses, not to mention the increase in stigmatization within countries.
Even more, the epidemic has had negative effects on job creation as well as on efforts to implement national and international development objectives, in particular the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the post-2015 Agenda.
In summary, Dr. Sanga stated that the disease has serious economic and social implications for the sub-region and even for the continent. This is why the ECA which sent to the three countries a team of specialists for discussions with the national authorities, the United Nations System and other stakeholders on the economic and social impacts, has formulated through this report, important recommendations aiming at supporting post-epidemic recovery efforts. These aim in particular at: (i) decentralizing health services in order to improve their reaction capacity at the local level, (ii) reinforcing health controls at the borders rather than closing them, in view of the economic impacts, (iii) developing financing strategies for the health sector, (iv) seriously considering with bilateral and multilateral creditors the cancellation of the external debts of the countries affected, (v) developing emergency recovery plans to relaunch the economies of the countries affected, (vi) breaking down the stigmatization and isolation of the countries affected and strengthen their resilience.
This presentation was followed by many questions from the participants, questions to which Dr. Sanga provided clear and precise responses. Afterwards he held a press conference to explain to the many journalists of the national press and the correspondents for international media accredited in Niger the importance of this study for African countries and the underlying reasons which motivated the ECA to conduct it.
It should be noted that this launching took place in the presence of dignitaries from Niger, delegates from Embassies, Representatives of international and inter-governmental organizations, Representatives of the Institutions of the United Nations System, members of the National Committee for the prevention and control of Ebola Virus Disease, academics, students and many health officials.
Download the report on http://www.uneca.org