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Friday 22 November 2019

Liberia urges Ebola 'Marshall Plan'

Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf arrives for a conference on Ebola at the Egmont Palace in Brussels (AP)
Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf arrives for a conference on Ebola at the Egmont Palace in Brussels (AP)

Liberia's president has called for an international aid plan to help rebuild economies in West Africa once Ebola is under control.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that "we need our international partners to remain committed to us", as the number of deaths from the disease approaches 10,000.

Ms Sirleaf told fellow regional leaders and delegates at a major international conference on Ebola in Brussels that rebuilding economies devastated by the outbreak is a long-term and costly task.

She said that "the most important long-term response to Ebola rests on plans and strategies for economic recovery", adding that "this will require significant resources, perhaps even a Marshall Plan".

The outbreak is focused in an area of West Africa about the size of France, with a population of about 20 million people, and where infrastructure is limited. Even if the number of new Ebola cases in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has dropped significantly, bringing it down to zero will still take a significant effort.

Ebola has hurt the three countries' already fragile economies, shifting resources resulting in other healthcare problems and hurting business as people grew scared to leave their homes or go to markets.

Some 4.9 billion dollars (£3.2 billion) has been pledged internationally to the Ebola effort, but less than half, some 2.4 billion dollars (£1.5 billion), has actually been disbursed.

Nevertheless, important progress has been made as the number of new cases of Ebola has dropped to around 100 per week, down from 800-900 at the height of the outbreak in August and September.

But experts and officials warn that eradicating the last cases poses a huge challenge, requiring everyone to be located and treated, and the close monitoring of all people they may have come in contact with.

"It's very important to step up our vigilance and support," said Guinea's president, Alpha Conde.

The head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also warned against any loss of momentum.

"The Ebola outbreak is not over and complacency, both at local and global levels, would be one of our worst enemies," said Elhadj As Sy.

"We are talking about a Marshall Plan because Ebola is like a war," Mr Conde said.

"We have turned the corner but even as we have shown an improvement in results, the virus is still with us. We are still in a fight," Sierra Leone president Ernest Bai Koroma said.

PA Media

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