Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has proclaimed victory in Liberia’s battle against Ebola, claiming that the stricken West African nation is back on the road to economic recovery.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the African Development Bank in Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire, Liberia’s president said that the country’s prospects have changed for the better after the World Health Organisation on 9 May confirmed that the pandemic had been brought under control.
“Today we are indeed Ebola free, as determined by the WHO…We are beginning to see a recovery, our forecast has changed more positively,” she said.
The Ebola pandemic devastatated the economies of three countries in West Africa, and the virus continues to afflict Liberia’s neighbours of Guinea and Sierra Leone. The World Bank estimated in April that the three countries affected will lose at least $2.2 billion in economic growth in 2015. The Bank predicted that Liberia’s economy would grow by a modest 3% in 2015, still well below pre-Ebola estimates of 6.8%, while it projected that Liberia and Guinea’s would contract this year.
The virus took the heaviest human toll in Liberia, where 4,806 people are recorded to have died from the virus and 189 health workers lost their lives. Johnson Sirleaf said Liberia would now look to help its neighbours overcome the effects of the virus.
“What we are doing is working with the other two affected countries – Sierra Leone and Guinea – to be able to share experiences, support [them] with raw material and technical help to mobilise support from elsewhere,” she said.
Sierra Leone’s finance minister Kaifala Marah, also speaking at the event, said that the virus had cost his country over $1bn and impeded the country’s ability to rebuild from the civil war that ended in 2002.
“Before Ebola we felt we were on [the] trajectory of [a] resilient country… When Ebola struck, we realised more than ever before that we are still a fragile country. We lost more than 2 years of development growth,” he said.
The World Bank reported that 2014 growth in Sierra Leone fell dramatically to 4%, down from the 11.3% expected before the crisis.
Marah said that the road ahead to recovery would not be an easy one.
“The truth is it will take some time. These countries are fragile. Our institutions are weak. Within the health sector we need several layers of experts to be part of the process.”