Ebola’s Toll: Farmers Aren’t Farming, Traders Aren’t Trading

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
By Paul Martin

by Jackie Northam
NPR.org
September 23, 2014

The Ebola outbreak is having a devastating effect on the economies of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, crippling major industries and forcing people out of work.

The three nations hardest hit by the virus are among the poorest on the African continent. Combined, their GDP is less than three percent of Nigeria’s, the regional economic powerhouse.

After emerging from years of conflict and instability, the three nations had been showing steady economic progress. That’s now come to a screeching halt. Last week the World Bank reported that Ebola could deal a “potential catastrophic blow” to their economies.

“For 2014, we estimate that the GDP losses to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea from this crisis will be a combined $360 million, which is a huge proportion of these very small economies,” said Jim Yong Kim, the bank’s president. Kim said there are two kinds of contagion surrounding Ebola. One is the virus itself, the second is fear about its rapid spread.

It’s that fear that has forced the cancellation of many airline flights into the Ebola-stricken countries. International companies have pulled workers out of the region; projects in key sectors such as mining are suspended. Manufacturing and construction are also being hit, says John Panzer, an economist with the World Bank.

“We are seeing cement sales, for example, that are leading to construction, drop by 60 percent,” says Panzer. “We are seeing fuel sales in Liberia reduced by 35 percent only in the month of August.”

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