Paris: Guinean President Alpha Conde, whose country was among the worst hit by the deadly Ebola outbreak, on Monday urged the International Monetary Fund to cancel the nation`s debts to help in its recovery.
Anti-poverty organisations, the United Nations and the United States have called on the IMF to wipe out some of the debts of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, which have borne the brunt of the more than 8,600 deaths in the outbreak.
The US, IMF`s largest shareholder, has exhorted the crisis lender to wipe out around a fifth of the $480 million ($557 million) owed it by the three west African nations.
"The cancellation must concern bilateral and multilateral debt," Conde said in an interview with AFP in Paris, on his way to the World Economic Forum in Davos.
He said he hoped the topic would come under further discussion at the next African Union meeting in June.
"Ebola has had such an impact on our countries, at a time when investors were coming back and showing their interest. Ebola has really upset matters," he added.
Cancelling the debt of the three poorly developed nations would free resources to restart their economic activities.
Sierra Leone and Liberia were already weakened before the outbreak as they were just recovering from devastating conflicts.
In December UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled that "before the Ebola outbreak, the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were vibrant and growing."
"Now they are weak and stagnant. Incomes are down. Prices have risen. Markets are bare. People are hungry.
"That is why it is imperative that while we work to end the Ebola outbreak, we must also begin to focus on recovery," he said.
Overall, some 22,000 people have so far been infected, according to the WHO, which has begun to record a decline in infections.
"The war is not won, but cases are starting to decrease. Things are looking up but we are not there yet," said Conde.
Looking at the bright side of the outbreak, he said that despite the devastation wrought by the disease, "the fact that everyone is now washing their hands means there is no cholera or typhoid. Maybe if we stick to these good habits ... we can prevent other epidemics."