Ebola-hit Sierra Leone faces social and economic disaster as gains made since the country’s ruinous civil war are wiped out by the epidemic, according to a major study released today.
Damage to most sectors of the economy will see growth shrink from 20.1 percent last year to just five percent in 2014, the finance ministry and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) found.
“While priority number one must be to stop the spread of Ebola, protecting Sierra Leone from the wider damage caused by this disease is crucial,” said David McLachlan-Karr, the UN chief in Sierra Leone.
“This report is a sobering warning that shows us that Sierra Leone faces a dramatic GDP loss, significant inflation, and a severe drop in trade and production nationwide across many sectors.”
The report, “The Economic and Social Impact of Ebola Virus Disease in Sierra Leone”, brings together research by the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.
It warns that shortages in food and foreign currency, as well as depreciation of the leone, will put further pressure on the recovery.
Ravaged by an 11-year civil war which left the world with images of child soldiers and rebels funded by “blood diamonds” hacking off limbs, Sierra Leone was long sidestepped by investors.
At the end of the conflict in 2002 some 50,000 people had died, public services were non-existent and the economy was in tatters.
But market reforms and improved governance has since seen the mining sector attracting unprecedented investment and creating thousands of jobs and the country was on the slow road to recovery.
The government launched a three-day shutdown in September to contain the virus and has placed five districts under quarantine, containing almost half the population of six million.
Lockdowns and health checkpoints have limited the movement of food and commodities, causing prices to soar and incomes to shrink, the UNDP said.
Children face at least a year of academic disruptions while expectant women are dying in childbirth at “alarming rates” due to fear of hospitals and a collapsed health service, it warned.
“The health sector has all but ceased to operate for non-Ebola cases,” the report says.