THE ECONOMIC COST OF EBOLA
Elizabeth Cohen of the Cable News Network, the Atlanta United States of America Based international broadcasting news medium was on September 25th 2014 at her best reporting about the devastating consequences and the disastrous aftermath of the Ebola Virus Disease pandemic that has afflicted some parts of the West African Sub-region especially the three countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Reading her online version of a comprehensive report she did titled 'Battling Ebola: Two Doctors for 85, 000 people', any humane observer will definitely shade tears and express consternation at how badly undermined the health infrastructure in Africa has become and this is as a result of the endemic corruption among political elites who have foisted nothing but dysfunctionality and systemic rots in the entire fabrics of socio-economic amenities in Africa.
In that report which Elizabeth Cohen anchored from the EVD [Ebola Virus Disease] hit Monrovia, Liberia, we were made to appreciate the deep seated collapse of health infrastructure in that poor West African nation of nearly 25 million population. She was quoting a distraught medical practitioner of Liberian origin Dr. Gobee Bomi, the County health director for Bomi County in Liberia.
The medical doctor told the CNN correspondent that the county has only two medical doctors to take care of Ebola patients, plus the 100 patients in their General hospital.
The other day, Sierra Leone shut down the entire country for three days and forced the populations to stay at their homes for three days even as thirty thousand health quarantine experts went round the nation searching frantically for fresh cases of EVD that may be hidden from the prying eyes of the nation's health ministry officials. At the end of the three days forced shut down about one million suspected cases of persons harbouring symptoms similar to the ailment were discovered and hundreds of thousands of persons were then placed on surveillance to determine their health status.
In Guinea, villagers have cried out loud and clear that certain restrictions imposed on the aftermath of the arrival of the Ebola Virus Disease has precipitated large scale hunger and starvation because the rural poor are not being allowed to go about their economic activities without let or hindrance even as the government is of the considered opinion that such restrictions imposed were necessary to stave off the calamitous consequences of a possible nation-wide break out of EVD among the urban and rural populations.
Even Liberians especially the poorest of the poor who have faced horrendous quarantine measures from their home government aided by their nation's armed forces who have kept them back in their poor neighbourhoods of Monrovia and other parts of the country have also complaint of hunger and starvation and the total break down of their economic activities.
While these existential experiences result from the hugely devastating outbreak of EVD in the aforementioned nations, the World Bank has come up with a considered findings that the outbreak of Ebola could drain billions of dollars from economies in West Africa by the end of next year if the epidemic is not contained.
The global news agency Reuters reported that the World Bank said in an analysis that slow containment of the deadly virus in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone could lead to broader regional contagion, particularly through tourism and trade.
Under the worst-case scenario, The World Bank stated that Guinea's economic growth could be reduced by 2.3 percentage points next year while Sierra Leone's growth would be cut by 8.9 percentage points. Liberia would be hardest hit, with a reduction of 11.7 percentage points next year.
“We really need to scale up our response and what we have learned from this study is that time is of the essence,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim told reporters.
Even under the best-case scenario, countries would need a “massive” scaling up of their response to contain the disease in the next four to six months, the bank said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the outbreak requires a $1 billion expenditure to limit its spread. “The ($1 billion) is something we need right now, and it could go up rapidly if we do not respond,” Kim said.
The World Bank-one of the two Bretton wood funding institutions much vilified for doing very little to pragmatically bail out he economically bleeding and debilitating African economies has since the emergence of this deadly EVD pledged about $200 million in emergency assistance to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries most affected.
Nigeria it would be recalled fought very hard to free the nation from the grips of an imminent EVD when a wayward Liberian official Mr Patrick Sawyer [who later died in a Lagos private hospital after he criminally sneaked out of his country to ravel to Nigeria whereby he got over 18 Nigerians afflicted with EVD out of which eight of the medical staff that treated him died]. The Nigerian Government spent a whooping N1 billion to fight back the EVD and after about two months the last cases of EVD suspected carriers were cleared when their test results turned out negative after they were quarantined and treated in the Lagos and Port Harcourt, Rivers State based EVD specialised facilities set up by the Lagos and Rivers State governments with funding assistance from the central government. While the EVD cases lasted in Nigeria, many expatriate workers from Europe and America fled in droves for fear of contracting the EVD but their apprehensions have now turned out to be unfounded.
Still speaking about the economic cost of EVD, the World Bank predicted the three West African countries so far affected by the virus would lose $359 million in economic output this year. All three also have significant funding gaps, totaling nearly $300 million.
The World Bank further asserted that Inflation and food prices were also starting to rise due to shortages, panic buying and speculation.
'Failure to contain the virus quickly could also affect business in neighboring countries, including Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal', the World Bank stated.
“The analysis finds that the largest economic effects of the crisis are not as a result of the direct costs … but rather those resulting from aversion behavior driven by fear of contagion,” the bank said in a statement.
Reuters reported that the worst Ebola outbreak since the disease was identified in 1976 has already killed nearly 2,500 people, half of the number infected by the virus.
The bank fundamentally made bold statements on how this serious disease can be contained and eradicated for now when it stated thus; 'Agreeing on a standardized Ebola treatment and prevention protocol, endorsed by the WHO, was critical and would significantly reduce the virus's death rate, now at 53 per cent'.
Africa is a very big mess with health issues such as malaria fever, Hiv/Aids AND NOW EVD and the earlier the political leadership are able to shake off this unfortunate toga of victimhood and rediscover her potentials and harness the enormous resources deeply hidden in the entire black continent, the better. The member nations of the African Union must also shake off the grave problems of corruption and greed that have caused series of gross underdevelopment and the total lack of functional health infrastructure to take care of the growing populations. Africans must stand up and demand good governance in their respective nations unless they desire to continue to live subhuman lives while the rest of the World witness economic growth and advancement.
Written by Emmanuel Onwubiko, Heads Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and lives in Abuja.