Donors pledge billions for Ebola recovery
International donors pledged $3.4 billion in new funds Friday to help Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in their final push to stamp out Ebola and get on the road to recovery.
The latest promises would bring the total amount of funds to help the three countries rebuild after the killer epidemic to $5.18 billion, said Helen Clark, head of the United Nations Development Programme.
"We consider this a very encouraging response," Clark told reporters at the end of the pledging conference held at the United Nations.
"This puts the recovery off to a very positive start."
The leaders of the countries had appealed for $3.2 billion to finance their national recovery plans, along with an additional $4 billion for a regional initiative.
The funds will help rebuild health care systems, reopen schools, support agriculture and get government services fully up and running.
The world`s worst outbreak of Ebola has killed more than 11,200 people in West Africa, brought fragile health care systems to their knees, rolled back economic gains and sent investors fleeing.
Liberia, the hardest-hit country, suffered a setback when a few new cases were uncovered last month just after it had been declared Ebola-free.
New infections in Sierra Leone and Guinea have fallen dramatically amid indications that the epidemic is largely under control.
Opening the conference, Liberia`s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said "the world has a great stake in how we respond to the global threat (of Ebola)."
"We can and we must return to the progress of our pre-Ebola trauma."Among the new funds pledged were $450 million from the European Union, $372 million from Britain, $266 million from the United States and $5 million from China.
Germany pledged 196 million euros ($220 million) and France 150 million euros.
Around 30 people are still being infected with Ebola every week, but the countries want to turn their attention now on rebuilding health care and restoring livelihoods.
Legions of health care workers died from Ebola and field hospitals built at the height of the crisis have since closed, leaving health systems struggling.
The loss of health workers could lead to an additional 4,022 deaths of women each year across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as a result of complications in pregnancy and childbirth, according to the World Bank.
The World Health Organization has said the three countries are facing a funding gap of $700 million just to rebuild their health systems and provide services until December 2017.
"Humanity sometimes displays a short attention span and wants to move to other issues because the threat of Ebola seems over," Sierra Leone`s President Ernest Bai Koroma told the gathering.
"No, no, no," he emphasized.
"The threat is never over until we rebuild the health sector Ebola demolished, until we rebuild the livelihoods in agriculture it compromised, until we shore up government revenues it dried up, and until we breathe life into the private sector it has suffocated."
Liberia and Sierra Leone have seen modest economic gains made after years of war wiped out by Ebola.
Growth rates in all three countries showed that economic prospects were bright before the outbreak that began in Guinea in December 2013.