May 6, 2016 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with support from the Japanese Government, yesterday commenced a two-day inception meeting for a project to support and strengthen post-Ebola medical surveillance and socio-economic recovery initiative in West Africa.
The general objective of the project would be the promotion of rapid socio-economic recovery, resilience and restoration of livelihood and supporting existing post-Ebola recovery actions, plans and strategies developed by national and regional partners.
The project also aims at deepening regional integration and cooperation among countries and regional institutions in West Africa to build resilience for future crises.
Speaking at the well-attended inception meeting of members from various African countries at the Bintumani Hotel in Aberdeen Freetown, UNDP Resident Representative Sunil Saigal yesterday said the unprecedented Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa placed a heavy burden on the region, particularly in the three worst affected countries.
He said since March 2014 over 28,000 people have been affected by the virus and more than 11,300 people lost their lives in the three worst affected countries.
Mr. Saigal said the epidemic disrupted livelihoods, thus leading to loss of household incomes, placed considerable strain on health system, reduced government revenues, limited investments in infrastructure and social services, as well as had an adverse effect on economic growth and social cohesion.
He said UNDP Regional Directors in March, 2015 reported an estimated annual loss of economic growth in the medium term of 2014-2017, ranging from 5.0% low Ebola scenario to 19.0% high Ebola scenario in the three affected countries.
He said that although the World Health Organization had declared the three affected countries free, they were not oblivious that there have been incidences of relapses, which national governments, global community and other partners have to address rapidly and robustly.
He disclosed that their role was to assist countries and their populations through governments and their institutions build their capacities to be more resilient against diseases that hamper economic opportunities and development gains.
He said the UNDP, together with WHO and other agencies, was currently supporting the government of affected countries in strengthening their emergency responses in order to address efficiently the impact of the recent Ebola disease outbreak.
He continued that the ultimate goal of all post-Ebola recovery efforts was to re-establish the conditions for a quick return to a path of economic growth, improved state-society relations and overall human development that could foster more inclusive societies now and in the future.
In his statement, Dr. Kofi Busia, Acting Director of Primary Health Care at West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), said the outbreak in the three West Africa countries in March, 2014 had been reported as the largest, most complex and worst the world has ever seen.
He said the disease devastated and desecrated families and communities in the worst affected countries, stretching already weak health system to their limit and bringing untold hardship to millions of people.
Secretary General of the Mano River Union, Dr Hadja Saran Draba Kaba, noted that three of the four member States of the MRU were affected by the Ebola virus, which became a public health humanitarian and socio-economic crisis with devastating impact on families and communities.
She said essential services, especially health and education have been compromised and economies weakened.
She said during the outbreak of the epidemic, the MRU Secretariat was the first organisation that provided financial support to member states towards sensitisation programme.
She said as the fight continued the MRU organised series of technical, ministerial and summits of Heads of State and government to ensure that a sub-regional approach to fighting the virus was adopted.
The outcome of those meetings was the formulation of a sub-regional post-Ebola socio-economic plan which was presented at the UN Pledging Conference in New York, she said.
Declaring the meeting opened on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Florence Max-Macarthy, Senior Public Health Sister, thanked the UNDP and Japan for holding such a meeting.
She said the government, through the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and other partners, has put modalities in place for effective surveillance, working with all local leadership in the country.