The World Health Organization declared the West African nation of Liberia Ebola free on Saturday, after 42 days of no new reported cases. Liberia was one of the three West African nations that took the largest hit from the pandemic, the other two being Guinea and Sierra Leone. Guinea and Sierra Leone are still reporting new cases of the virus, however the number is significantly less than it was at the peak of the pandemic between the months of January and March. While the end may be in sight for the Ebola Virus, the economic consequences following the crisis are still very real and very painful.
Not surprisingly Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are also the nations expected to be hurt the worst financially from the pandemic. The World Bank Group estimates the GDP losses for the three nations to exceed 2.2 billion, including $240 million for Liberia, $535 million for Guinea, and $1.4 billion for Sierra Leone.
In the words of Liberia’s Finance Minister, Amara Konneh, “The disease ravaged our economy beyond imagination… It scared everybody away from us. So we’ve had to take some fiscal and monetary measures to maintain macro-economic stability.” Essentially the high number of Ebola cases in Liberia, and several other African nations, isolated them from the rest of the world. Imports and exports in these nations were so limited, for fear of virus transmission, that the only way to keep the country from collapsing was through increased government spending. Now that the immediate threat of Ebola seems to be in the past, these nations are lacking the funds and resources to try to turn their economies around.
To make matters worse many of these nations' economies heavily depend on commodities such as rubber and iron ore. Slow global growth, namely in China, is driving down the global prices of these commodities, which is in turn making recovery an even more arduous process. Recognizing this severe problem, the World Bank Group announced that it would “Mobilize as much as $650 million during the next 12-18 months to help Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone recover from the devastating social and economic impact of the Ebola crisis and advance their longer-term development needs”