Economic Effects of Ebola Outbreak in West Africa
By admin August 29, 2014

EbolaThe current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has infected over 3,000 people and killed over 1,500, since it began in December 2013. The outbreak started in South Guinea and spread throughout villages and into neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone in the preceding months. The outbreak reached Nigeria in July by an infected passenger on a plane prompting airports around throughout Africa and the world to take notice. As of today, the outbreak has spread to its fifth country, Senegal, indicating that the outbreak is spinning out of control. This news comes during a week that has seen the highest number of new infections since the outbreak began. Over 500 new cases have been reported this week; that is more than the entire previous outbreak in Uganda in 2000-2001.

This month WHO classified the outbreak as an international health emergency and warned that actual numbers of infected people could be 2 to 4 times higher than what is being reported. WHO also estimates that a total of 20,000 people could be infected by the end of the outbreak. In response to these new reports the WHO has created a $490 million roadmap to control the outbreak over the next nine months. The roadmap not only aims to control and stop the outbreak but will manage any secondary international consequences, as well as, the outbreak’s socioeconomic impact. The United Nations is also beefing up its response launching a plan that will deal with acute problems cause by the outbreak including food security, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene, primary and secondary health care and education, as well as long term recovery.

The International Monetary Fund released a statement saying “the Ebola outbreak is having an acute macroeconomic and social impact on three already fragile countries in West Africa.” Currently, the IMF is studying what type of additional financial support will be needed in countries effected by the outbreak. The World Bank and national governments have already revised projected economic growth for affected countries, Guinea decreased by one percentage point and the Liberian finance minister no longer believes the country will meet the IMF projection of 5.9% economic growth.

Outbreaks and epidemics can cause panic and confusion that can disrupt national economies and can have longer term affects than the outbreak itself. Already, cross-border markets have been closed and many farmers are fleeing affected areas leaving crops to rot. For the affected countries agriculture represents a majority of the country’s economy and will have devastating economic effects at both the national and local levels. Some foreign companies have already began to pull employees out of these countries and have slowed down production. Many of the major mining firms have shut down non-essential operations and left only necessary staff in place.

If the virus continues to spread more firms will begin to pull employees and decrease production or suspend operations entirely. This will have devastating effects on the economies of these countries and the region as a whole. As companies in affected countries react airlines have begun to place travel restrictions on flights, some halting all fights to affected countries entirely. With the virus spreading into Senegal, it is clear that the economic downfall will continue throughout the region. Analysts cannot be sure how much of an affect this outbreak will have on the long term growth for West Africa but it is clear that the ramifications will be devastating.


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