Global leaders are failing to honour their promises to communities devastated by Ebola in West Africa, with $5.8 billion of pledged recovery funds proving almost impossible to track, Oxfam warned today.
Six months since the International Conference on Ebola Recovery in New York, at least $1.9 billion worth of promised funds have not been delivered, while scant information is available about the remaining $3.9 billion.
Aboubacry Tall, Oxfam's Regional Director for West Africa, said: "We know that $1.9 billion of the promised funds have not even been committed to a specific country but we can't say for sure how much of the remaining committed money has been effectively delivered.
"A lack of transparency throughout the whole process, from donors to implementing organizations to programs on the ground means we're finding it hard to understand which donors have given what money, to whom and for what purpose."
The Ebola outbreak has set the affected countries back years; shattered already inadequate health systems and ruined people's livelihoods. Donors and the Governments of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea must act now to meet their commitments to communities by publishing accurate, timely and detailed information on aid delivery and Ebola recovery efforts.
It has taken almost two years, more than 11,300 deaths, massive provision of resources, technical assistance and billions of US dollars from around the world to tackle the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Yet despite this, last week, another 150 people were exposed to the risk of Ebola in Sierra Leone according to the World Health Organisation. This is not the end of Ebola in West Africa or globally.
Tall said: "In order for the countries to quickly build the health systems they require, governments and communities need to know what aid they are getting, when it is coming, where it is going and they need to have a say in how it is used. We urge donors to 'put their money where their mouths are' and demonstrate what transparency really means by, at a minimum, publishing information in accordance with International Aid Transparency Initiative standards".
As African Heads of State meet in Addis Ababa this week to discuss making 2016 the year of Human Rights in Africa, Oxfam is calling on them to focus attention on the Right to Health. 15 years ago, African leaders made a commitment to provide 15% of their budgets to the health sector - urgent action is required to achieve this. Adequate investment in health systems, water, sanitation and hygiene is vital to protect lives.
The slow identification and response by government health services to the recent cases in Sierra Leone and Liberia clearly demonstrate that they are still not capable of responding effectively to Ebola and other highly contagious diseases.
Tall said: "Although Oxfam and other organisations responded by mobilising community volunteers, this is not enough. If we are going to succeed, communities need to be a part of the process and a part of the planning, from the very beginning."
After the recent outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, I was horrified to see the same patterns of distrust emerging. Rumours were rampant, some people didn't believe it was Ebola and others felt that it had been re-introduced on purpose. Rumours like these are extremely dangerous and can lead to community complacency."
In order to prevent the same tragedy from happening again, Oxfam urges the Governments of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to empower communities to take a leading role in their own healthcare, by making sure that local people are put at the heart of decisions about where resources go, and how they are used. Oxfam's experience during the Ebola response has shown that community leadership and trust in local health systems is absolutely vital and should be considered a medical necessity.
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Notes to Editors:
According to Oxfam analysis, a total of $5.8 billion has been pledged for Ebola recovery, $5.2 billion of which was pledged at the International Ebola Recovery Conference in New York in July 2015.
At a minimum, one third ($1.9 billion) still has not been allocated to a specific country in a pledge statement let alone through more firm commitments to specific recovery programmes. Since there is limited information on the funds that have been delivered for the Ebola recovery effort that is our best estimate and represents the minimum amount that has not yet been delivered.
Some 23,000 children have lost one or both of their primary caregivers, according to UNICEF in January 2016.
In April 2001, heads of state of African Union countries met and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15% of their annual budget to improve the health sector. In 2013, just before the Ebola outbreak only six AU member States had met these commitments and the ECOWAS (West African) average was at only 8% with Sierra Leone just 6.22%.
On 7 November 2015, the WHO declared an end to Ebola transmission in Sierra Leone. Less than 10 weeks later, on 12 January 2016, a woman in Sierra Leone died of Ebola. The WHO reports that 150 people were exposed to the virus, 50 of them deemed to be at high risk.
Liberia has experienced two new outbreaks of Ebola since it was declared free from Ebola on 9 May 2015. The first was identified on 30 June, only seven weeks after the end of transmission was declared, and the second on 19 November, 2015.
Note on Methodology:
Oxfam defines Ebola recovery funds as all funds that a donor has stated are intended to support the recovery effort. To count these funds, Oxfam reviewed donor statements from official releases, media and social media around the July 2015 UN pledging conference, and responses from direct inquiries with contacts at donor agencies. We compared the data gathered through this process with existing data on recovery pledges available via the UN, the World Bank, and previous research conducted by the ONE Campaign. Discrepancies were resolved in favour of the largest publicly
announced figure, with the intention of being over-inclusive rather than under-inclusive. For all donors, announced amounts were used even if not contractually obligated (committed). The intent was to cast the widest net to capture all funds available for Ebola recovery based on donor public statements. This includes remaining response funds (even if not expressly declared to be recharacterised as recovery funds) but excludes funds specifically allocated for research and development.
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