Three of the countries in the Mano River Union(MRU)-Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone- have suffered the worst Ebola outbreak since the disease was first diagnosed in 1976. The socio-economic impact of the outbreak in the region is tremendous and has reversed the impressive socioeconomic performance of the affected States. The situation of these States which were already fragile has worsened. As of 31st March 2015 the region has recorded 25,213 cumulative cases and 10,460 deaths of which women and children have been mostly affected. The outbreak is considered a global crisis and one that requires a global response.
The impact of the outbreak on the economy of the three States is severe.Prior to the epidemic, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone recorded GDP growth rates of 4.5 percent, 5.9 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively. By end December 2014, the growth rates of the three States had decelerated to 0.4 percent, 0.7percent, and 6 percent, respectively. Macroeconomic indicators are fluctuating, exchange rates are volatile, inflation has increased and interest rates are expected to rise. The economic downturn is in part driven by the fear around Ebola, with investment operations scaled down as expatriates and investors departed. This,coupled with the effect of restrictions on cross-border trade, restrictions on movement of people, suspension of airlines and rising insurance costs, has led to acute food shortages across the region, including in adjacent countries such as Cote d’ Ivoire and Senegal. Large numbers of children have been orphaned and hundreds of women widowed.
There have been significant implications for non–Ebola health, education and wider social outcomes in the region. Already fragile health systems have been extremely compromised with a disproportionate number of healthcare workers dying thereby reducing the already low ratio of health care workers to population. Non-Ebola related deaths have increased and immunization and other preventative measures have been severely restricted. Education has also been hit hard with the entire educational system shut down during the crisis and many teachers have died. With manufacturing slowing and many small businesses closing down, unemployment has significantly increased, particularly among the youth. The progress that has been made in bailing our people out of poverty has been reversed, and the livelihoods of millions of people have been worsened.
This Recovery Program first considers the impact of the crisis and identifies the emerging priority needs at MRU level, drawing on common themes at country level and the Heads of States Declaration made at the 15th February 2015 MRU Summit in Conakry, and Statement made at the March 3rd 2015 EU Summit in Brussels. The strategic objectives of this Sub-regional Programme include (i) harmonizing approaches for tackling Ebola-type threats especially emanating from the border zones or of a cross-border nature, in achieving the state of zero new infections; (ii) instituting policies, actions and programs to correct weaknesses at the sub-regional level that have been revealed by the outbreak and which are essential for rebuilding a more resilient sub region; (iii) highlighting current or planned initiatives within the MRU that could be re-prioritized to buttress the regional recovery efforts; (iv) accelerating implementation of programmes that will support the sub-region to deal more effectively with future shocks of the Ebola type; (v) implementing programs that mitigate the impacts of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Crisis on the affected population in the sub-region; (vi) enabling MRU States to restore economic growth potentials, and exploit available opportunities to enhance inclusive economic growth and development within the sub-region; (vii) strengthening the achievement of economic development agendas of the affected States; (viii) ensuring restoration of basic education services delivery system and building resilience in post-EVD MRU States; and (ix) strengtheningregional integration and building on National experiences in the fight against the EVD to develop a more proactive regional system that responds appropriately to future occurrences.
The top priorities of this Programme include (i) access to basic health, water , sanitation and hygiene services; (ii) restoring and improving gender, youth and social protection services; (iii) supporting restoration of agriculture, fisheries and food security programs; (iv) enhancing trade and private sector development; (v) improving basic infrastructure, including roads, energy, and ICT; (vi) improving governance, peace and security in the sub-region. The planned period of implementation is June 2015 to May 2017.
The Programme highlights key lessons learned from the Ebola crisis as opportunities to build resilient systems for future health and other emergencies. Effective implementation of this Program will require strengthening MRU managerial, fiduciary and monitoring and evaluation capacity.
The sub-regional recovery budget only reflects programmes (cross-border in nature) whose implementation shall be coordinated through the MRU Secretariat. And because resources to implement these programmes are scarce, the needs have been categorized into two sets of priorities. Priority Area I covers social issues, food security,governance and cross-border security, with an estimated cost in new money of US$ 1.76 billion.Priority Area II comprises recovery needs supporting building resilience and robust cross-border infrastructural system to respond to future emergencies, with estimated cost US$ 2.24 billion.
A single Basket Fund has been proposed to pool all resources committed from Development Partners together, covering Mano River Union Secretariat coordinated programmes, and programmes implemented at the three country level.
The Programme will rely on the New Deal for engagement with the international and donor communities in Fragile States as an implementation guide. The New Deal, to which all three affected countries are signatories, is a guide for fragile states to attain and sustain resilience. Its emphasis is on country ownership, strengthening institutions, capacity building, and the effective use of government resources dovetail with the objectives and highlights of this report.