Social and economic impacts of Ebola in West Africa
Published : Tuesday, 13 January, 2015, Time : 12:00 AM, View Count : 25
ATM Haidar Khan The outbreak of Ebola epidemic in western African countries causes death, health crisis, decrease of living standard and noticeably rushing those countries towards a handicapped economic system .The devastating impact of Ebola on the socioeconomic condition has spread to six countries (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and, most recently Mali). Among these Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have been suffering the bitter. If such situation continues the peace gained through democratic transition will be ruined within short time span. In Guinea Ebola crisis has affected every sector of economy. And specialists said that the meltdown of economy can be felt even after ten years of its ending. The outbreak of Ebola has made those common limitations on people, goods, money through making barricade on trade, stopping activities of social organizations and institutions, and by closing borders. In Conakry port container traffic are down by a third and the airport is two-third empty. The exports of fruits and vegetables in Northeast have been down to 90 per cent. As the major sectors agriculture and mining had reached rock bottom. Farmers are not eager to cultivate and thus leaving their lands resulting scarcity of food. Even the farmers of unaffected areas also showed such negligence due to other perspectives such as limitation of trade, loss, failure of repaying the borrowed money from bank etc. As example the potato producing region of Fouta Djallon has not being affected by Ebola virus but they are facing severe problem related to trade. They cannot export their production due to closure of border. The quantity of exporting potatoes has been reduced by 10 per cent. This made a loss of $6.5 million of the farmers and the lack of income causes difficulties in paying back loans. The world's biggest iron ore producer was active until April in Simandou in the forest of eastern Guinea. The workers are kept on leave for Ebola crisis even their six international members of staff had to go for this stopping all activities there. According to World Bank the GDP growth rate of Guinea will fall from 4.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent. The Guinea government reported that a $220 financial gap will be faced for this crisis. Last year Liberia's was one of the fastest growing economies in the world. But the Ebola crisis slowed it down and projection showed that the economy will be reduced further in 2015. GDP growth became negative after 11 year of the civil war. The Liberian government was expecting 5.9 per cent economic growth rate but it is quite impossible to reach that due to lack of transport, workers, and for leaving the foreign experts because of spreading the epidemic. In Liberia wealthy citizens having dual citizenship fled from the country with their buying power. In Sierra Leone almost all districts (12 out of 13) are under the threat of Ebola crisis. Kailahun, Kenema, Bombali, Moyamba and Port Loko have been kept in quarantine for one month. People are facing soaring price of product for the limited access to market, constriction over movements and forbidding farmers from cultivation. Small businesses are almost lost its actual position in economy. London Mining, a smaller British company, moved its experts from Sierra Leone, where the country's recent growth has accounted on mining. The output of Sierra Leone grew by 20 per cent where it grew by 5.5 per cent excepting iron ore mining. The commercial banks of Sierra Leone have reduced 2 hour from the working time to avoid contact with clients which making obstacle in actual businesses and living acts. The tourism industry of this country has severe knock; the hotels remain empty and the authorities of these hotels are lying off their stuff. It is not a matter to specifically mention that if an economy is affected the whole social peace and behaviour chain will be ruined. People of all spheres of life are suffering seriously; as a result, immoral activities are increasing in number. Borders remain closed; therefore inter-county relations do not exist as it should be found. Moreover some story telling societies are spreading rumours. These rumours making the inhabitants panic and keep them away from the right way to get rid of the problem. Where 60 per cent of people are illiterate, it is difficult to make them understand the actual facts. In Sierra Leone communities connected to ethical rules are spreading different types of hoax, and people are listening to them. Schools, colleges and other social institutions cannot act freely and remain closed, which is making the situation worse in case of growing public awareness. Ebola outbreak in western African countries is damaging the ability of the governments to be self-reliant, and it is increasing dependency on domestic and foreign aid. As a whole a study shows the governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are in a shortage of $328 million to fight the crisis in its pre-crisis level. This gap has created cause of eradicating Ebola crisis and breakdown of economic activities like trade, tourism and mining. Some effective measures should be taken like involving farmers in their land, raising public awareness, moving trade in its usual swing, sending some experts there and most importantly giving aid in appropriate places as soon as possible.
ATM Haidar Khan is President, Bangladeshi Students Union, UK