World cannot dither on recovery as it dithered over Ebola
International agency Oxfam today called for a multi-million dollar post-Ebola 'Marshall Plan' to put the three West Africa countries hit by the crisis back on their feet. The agency said that the world cannot dither on putting the countries' economies on an inclusive growth plan as it did on the Ebola response.
Key to the success of any recovery package will be addressing three areas of acute need: immediate cash to millions of families affected by the crisis, investment in jobs and budget support for essential services such as health, education, water and sanitation.
The agency is calling for an international pledging conference to agree recovery plans backed by generous support from rich countries to help efforts to rebuild lives and put the economies back on the road to growth.
On a visit to Liberia Oxfam GB's chief executive Mark Goldring said: "People need cash in their hands now, they need good jobs to feed their families in the near future and decent health, education and other essential services. They've gone through hell, they cannot be left high and dry.
"The world cannot walk away now that, thankfully, cases of this deadly disease are dropping. Failure to help these countries after surviving Ebola will condemn them to a double-disaster. The world was late in waking up to the Ebola crisis, there can be no excuses for not helping to put these economies and lives back together."
People are struggling to make ends meet as their incomes plummet. Oxfam's research in three Liberian counties found that 73 per cent of families have seen their incomes decline, with an average income drop of 39 percent.
One of the effects of lost income is an inability to buy food. Oxfam found 60 percent of people said they had not had enough food in the past seven days. One in four said this was due to a decline in income, one in five said because of high food prices. To cope with this, people have been relying on the generosity of friends and relatives, choosing less expensive food, limiting portion sizes, reducing the number of meals eaten a day and restricting adult consumption in order to allow children to eat.
Since the Ebola outbreak the World Bank estimates nearly 180,000 people have lost their jobs in Sierra Leone and in Liberia half of heads of household are out of work. In Liberia, the World Bank found that job losses fell disproportionately on women with more women losing their jobs than men. The loss of income is exacerbated by rises in the price of food. In Liberia the price of rice has risen 40 percent above its seasonal average.
Poverty rates in Ebola-hit countries were already high. In Sierra Leone 56 per cent of the population were living under the poverty line, some 64 per cent were under the poverty line in Liberia and 40 per cent in Guinea.
Before the Ebola crisis, Liberia and Sierra Leone were two of the fastest growing economies in Africa with annual growth rates of over five percent for Liberia and a staggering projected growth rate of 11.3 percent for Sierra Leone. Both countries were coming from a low economic base due to years ravaged by war. Guinea's pre Ebola projected growth rate for 2104 was 4.5 percent.
Oxfam is planning to increase its work to help communities recover from the crisis while still maintaining its Ebola prevention work. It is planning to give substantial cash grants to vulnerable families and rehabilitate water and sanitation facilities.
So far in its response to the Ebola crisis Oxfam has helped 650,000 people in Sierra Leone, 445,000 in Liberia, and 33,000 in Mali. It has helped a further 15,000 people with preventative work in Guinea Bissau, Gambia, and Senegal.
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Notes to editors:
Oxfam's Chief Executive, Mark Goldring, is currently visiting Liberia and Sierra Leone with a BGan. To arrange an interview please contact the Oxfam Media Unit on the numbers given above.
Oxfam's research was carried out in a face-to-face survey during December 2014 in three Liberian counties, including two of the most populous: Montserrado (614 people in 3 communities), Nimba (564 people in 25 towns) and Grand Gedeh (470 people in 10 towns). 1,648 people were interviewed, one per household: 69% head of household, 23% spouse, 8% family member. This was combined with 19 focus group discussions including youth and women's groups, local leaders and Ebola task force members. The data was
captured using mobile survey phones and the assessment was analysed in AKVO Flow software and Excel.
The World Bank statistics were taken from two reports released in January 2015: http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/publication/socio-economic-impacts-ebola-liberia and http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/publication/socio-economic-impacts-ebola-sierra-leone