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Default Ebola's toll: $2.2B economic hit for W. Africa

Ebola's toll: $2.2B economic hit for W. Africa,

WASHINGTON The Ebola epidemic that swept through West Africa this year sucked $2.2 billion from the economies of the three countries hit hardest by the disease, the World Bank said Friday.
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Sierra Leone's economy lost $1.4 billion, Guinea lost $535 million and Liberia lost $240 million, according to gross domestic product (GDP) estimates released Friday by the World Bank. A decline in global iron ore prices also aggravated the economic downturn in all three countries, the bank said. In Sierra Leone, the collapse of the mining sector resulted in an unprecedented 23.5% GDP contraction, the bank said.
Only Liberia's economy is showing signs of returning to health, with a projected growth rate of 3% in 2015. Before the epidemic, Liberia's economy was predicted to grow nearly 7%, the World Bank said. Guinea's economy is stagnate and Sierre Leone has slid into a severe recession.
Even as the epidemic comes under control, West Africa may be in for more bad economic news, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said Friday in remarks with the presidents from the three countries at the IMF-World Bank Spring Meeting in Washington.
"All three countries face a second shock," she said. "The recent sharp decline in commodity prices will significantly impair prospects for recovery. Many investors are considering delaying projects, while some operating mines have already suspended their activities."
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the bank's International Development Association, the World Bank's fund for the world's poorest countries, would send at least $650 million in grants and concession loans over the next 18 months to aid in the countries' economic recovery. The new funds bring the World Bank's total financial commitment to the Ebola recovery and response to $1.62 billion.
The new money will be targeted for strengthening the countries' health systems and frontline, agricultural development, education, social welfare aid and infrastructure improvements in electricity, water, sanitation and roads, the World Bank said. The countries will also use the funds to develop a regional disease surveillance system across West Africa.
The IMF in February announced $100 million in debt relief for the three countries from its recently established Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust. Germany and Britain announced Thursday it would contribute $72 million to the fund, bringing the IMF nearly halfway to its goal of raising $150 million during the Spring Meeting.
Sierra Leone and Guinea continue to struggle with new Ebola cases. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 28 new cases in Guinea this week and nine new cases in Sierra Leone. Since the outbreak began in December 2013, WHO has tracked 3,528 cases with 2,346 deaths in Guinea,12,201 cases with 3,857 deaths in Sierra Leone, and 10,042 cases with 4,486 deaths in Liberia. Isolated cases have been reported in Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, Britain and the United States, WHO records show.
Click the image to open in full size.A Liberian man walks by an ebola awareness painting on a wall in downtown Monrovia, Liberia in March.




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