THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Oxfam insists wealthy countries help Ebola-ridden areas

Oxfam International is calling for a multimillion-dollar post-Ebola "Marshall Plan" to help the three West Africa countries hit hardest by the crisis.

The agency said that the plan needs to address three areas of immediate need, including providing cash to millions of families affected, investing in jobs and providing budget support for health, education, water and sanitation.

“People need cash in their hands now; they need good jobs to feed their families in the near future and decent health, education and other essential services,” Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said. “They’ve gone through hell; they cannot be left high and dry. The world cannot walk away now that, thankfully, cases of this deadly disease are dropping. Failure to help these countries after surviving Ebola will condemn them to a double disaster. The world was late in waking up to the Ebola crisis. There can be no excuses for not helping to put these economies and lives back together.”

The agency wants an international pledging conference to agree to recovery plans that should be backed by financial support from wealthy countries.

Oxfam’s research has shown that in three Liberian counties, 73 percent of families have seen their incomes decline, with an average income drop of 39 percent. Also, 60 percent of people said they had not had enough food in the past seven days. The World Bank estimated that nearly 180,000 people have experienced job loss in Sierra Leone and in Liberia, half the heads of household are out of work. In Liberia, more women are losing their jobs than men.

Poverty rates in Ebola-afflicted countries were already as high as in Sierra Leone, with 56 percent of the population living under the poverty line, while 64 percent were under the poverty line in Liberia and 40 percent in Guinea.

Prior to the Ebola outbreak, Liberia and Sierra Leone had annual growth rates of over five percent for Liberia and a projected growth rate of 11.3 percent for Sierra Leone.