On 9-10 July 2015, an international conference on Ebola recovery was held at the United Nations. In attendance were representatives from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. They enlightened us about the effects of the outbreak and their journey to recovery. Most importantly, they pleaded with all private sectors, NGOs, and humanitarian sectors to help with funds to help them fully recover from the Ebola crisis.
The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa has become one of the largest global health crisis in recent history with over 27,000 cases and 11,000 plus lives lost in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, impacting individuals, families, and communities. The majority of Ebola victims are between the ages of 15 and 45, so basically most households have lost one or more members of working age.
Ever since the start of the Ebola outbreak, the World Food Program and other partners have been of great help to the affected countries. They continue to support health efforts to all affected countries to enable them reach zero Ebola cases. The World Food Program also helped to expand school meals to all children in need and supported vulnerable rural communities by delivering food to them to overcome hard times.
Due to the Ebola outbreak, schools in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone remained closed for months, depriving the children of education. Education is very important to the World Food Program, as they are eager to continue their School Meal programme as soon as school reopens. As of now, schools in all three countries have resumed and the school children are enjoying their hot meals from the School Meal programme.
During the meeting, the representative of Sierra Leone mentioned debt relief. She asked for additional support on behalf of her country in the form of debt relief and direct budget support. She also showed us a power point of the cases of Ebola by the sexes that were affected in all three West African countries. She spoke bitterly about how the outbreak has impacted economic sectors. For example:
- Small scale farmers were mainly affected during the Ebola outbreak; the virus prevented them from fully accessing their fields to plant or harvest or going to the market place to sell their crops
- Reduction in mining, especially small scale mining
- International trade is severely affected
- Tourism and hospitality are severely affected as many exports left the region
- Air and sea transport have been negatively affected
The World Food Program also manages the UN humanitarian air service operating within and between the affected areas. UNICEF (UN Fund for Children) and their partners also helped by initiating a “house to house family sensitization on Ebola campaign” to educate them mainly on hygiene. At each house visit, a health professional was available to discuss with the families about Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), the source and means of spread of the disease, and the behaviors required to stop the disease. Their goals were to get the community to participate in the EVD response, engage them in tracing the transmission risk, and also lay a foundation for health sector recovery. UNICEF’s campaign objectives were to reach 100% of the households in the country with correct information on EVD, increase community acceptance, promote hand washing, rebuild public confidence, install neighborhood watch structures, and continue providing food and logistical services to the affected communities to reach zero Ebola cases. According to records, WFP requires US $56 million by the end of 2015. So far, WFP has received US $329 million for its Ebola response. Looking on the bright side, the World Health Organization declared Liberia “Ebola free” on May 9th. We look forward to hearing more good news from the World Health Organization.