Liberia's president calls for 'Marshall Plan' to fully eradicate Ebola

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is countering the danger of Ebola 'donor fatigue' by calling for a major international aid effort. The three worst-affected African nations are at a turning point as they now try to rebuild their economies.

Virginia Mayo/AP
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaks with the media as she arrives for a conference on Ebola at the Egmont Palace in Brussels on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Liberia’s president is calling for a Marshall Plan of international aid to help eradicate Ebola from western Africa and rebuild economies, as the number of deaths from the disease approaches 10,000. Sirleaf told fellow regional leaders and delegates at a major international conference on Ebola in Brussels that rebuilding economies devastated by the outbreak is a long-term and costly task.

As the Ebola outbreak in West Africa wanes, nations devastated by the virus are pushing for a long-term response centered on economic recovery.

On Tuesday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called for an Ebola "Marshall Plan" to help rebuild the region’s fragile economies and for "international partners to remain committed" to bringing an end to the epidemic, The Associated Press reports.

"The most important long-term response to Ebola rests on plans and strategies for economic recovery," the president told fellow regional leaders and delegates at an international conference on Ebola in Brussels. “This will require significant resources, perhaps even a Marshall Plan," she added, referring to the massive United States aid program that helped Europe rebuild after World War II.

Almost 10,000 people have died from the Ebola virus, the vast majority in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization.

Since it began nearly a year ago, the outbreak has undermined the three countries' already fragile economies and exacerbated many of their pre-existing challenges. With a combined GDP of $13.9 billion in 2013, the impoverished nations have long suffered from a lack of infrastructure, health care, and economic development. Their combined GDP is smaller than Vermont – at $29.9 billion – the US state with the smallest GDP.

Ana Revenga, senior director for poverty at the World Bank, said in a statement that Ebola’s “socio-economic side effects put the current and future prosperity of households at high risk” in Liberia. 

“We must pay careful attention to those who are most vulnerable to both health and economic shocks, and ensure that they are supported throughout and after the crisis,” she added. 

The BBC reports that despite continued attention from the international community, Ebola efforts are in danger of facing donor fatigue. While the focus remains on eradication, President Johnson and other regional leaders have started to emphasize the need for long-term international support.

Strengthening health-care systems across the region has emerged as one of their top priorities. Already scarce resources have had to be directed to controlling the epidemic, making it harder to get treatment for other diseases such as malaria and pneumonia that are blamed for the deaths of thousands of children in the developing world every day.

A report released Tuesday by Save the Children reinforces the case for investing in health care. The report found that global efforts to combat Ebola have cost $4.3 billion, more than twice as much as the $1.58 billion it would take to improve the health-care systems in the three most affected countries.

“The world woke up to Ebola, but now people need to wake up to the scandal of weak health systems,” Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children USA, said in a statement.

About $4.9 billion has been pledged internationally to fight Ebola in West Africa, but only around $2.4 billion has actually been disbursed, according to the AP.

The number of new cases of Ebola has dropped to about 100 per week, down from 800 to 900 at the height of the outbreak in August and September. But experts and officials warn that eradicating the last cases still poses a huge challenge.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.