Ebola puts future development of Liberia, Sierra Leone at high risk: World Bank

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UNITED NATIONS: Two new World Bank Group reports issued Monday showed that the socio-economic impacts of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia and Sierra Leone are far-reaching and persistent, saying that the deadly epidemic put the future prosperity of the two West African countries at high risk.

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“In Liberia, the economy continues to shed jobs faster than they are replaced, with nearly half of Liberian household heads remaining out of work,” Farhan Haq, the deputy UN spokesman, said at a daily news briefing here, quoting messages from the reports. “Women are particularly vulnerable as the labor market stagnates and there are new concerns about the farmers’ ability to organize work teams given Ebola fears.”

“In Sierra Leone, the World Bank Group report found that wage and non-farm self-employed workers saw the largest declines in employment in urban areas,” Haq said.

An estimated 9,000 wage workers and 170,000 self-employed workers outside of agriculture are no longer working since July/ August 2014, he said. “Food insecurity is also high and there is some evidence of a decrease in utilization of health services for non-Ebola conditions in Freetown,” capital of Sierra Leone.

The reports are based on the data collected throughout continuous mobile-phone surveys.

The surveys are part of the World Bank’s 1 billion-U.S.-dollar outbreak response and complement previous analysis that pointed to a possible 32.6 billion dollars regional economic impact, which could be catastrophic for these already fragile States.

The surveys will continue in both countries, with priorities on monitoring Ebola’s effects on economies and households and aiming to help governments tackle the most pressing economic issues and plan the recovery.

Also on Monday, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that the total number of people facing food insecurity due to Ebola could top 1 million by March 2015 unless access to food is drastically improved, Haq said, adding in December 2014, WFP distributed food to more than 720,000 people across the three main Ebola-affected countries in Africa. PNA

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