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City of Banjul
Friday, December 4, 2020

Ebola: the crisis is not yet over

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According to the medical sources, Sumana’s bodyguard, 42-year-old John Koroma, died of Ebola on Friday. The vice president’s office said Sumana is not in danger but had decided to stay out of his office for the next 21 days and work from his home in the west of the capital. Sierra Leone recorded 18 new cases of Ebola last week, up from 16 new cases the previous week. This breaks the trend of declining cases in Sierra Leone. There were clusters of new cases with many related to the movements of fishermen.

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Admittedly, the Ebola Virus Disease is one of the deadliest viruses known to man. But after much optimism of it losing its steam, it is still not over and could well take another ugly dimension. Since news of the disease broke in December 2013, more than 9,500 people have died. Liberia has registered the highest death toll of 4,037, while Sierra Leone has seen almost half of the total of 23,694 cases. While Liberia is showing only a tiny handful of new cases each week, Guinea and Sierra Leone continue to be a worry to the authorities, who say they still do not have the epidemic under control.

 

Meanwhile, the socio-economic consequences of Ebola crisis are all too evident. Countries in the region including The Gambia have all been aware of this uncontested fact. The Central Bank of The Gambia in a report on the country’s debt-ridden economy blamed Ebola for the decline in growth activity. According to the officials, its negative impact specifically on the tourism sector has robbed the economy of much-needed buoyancy. The Central Bank’s verdict might well be a rather persuasive defence of its actions, but the fact remains that the crisis has had spill-over effects.   

 

But their argument is supported by a team of IMF experts led by Bhaswar Mukhopadhyay who visited Banjul in September last year. The IMF team’s report stated that although The Gambia remain Ebola-free, news from the sub-region appeared to be deterring tourists and this posed an additional challenge. From all these, it is fair to state that our government must now traverse a range of options in order to fine-tune our economy back to life. The impact of Ebola on our economy has attracted help from many multilateral institutions and it is important for us to work closely with these institutions in order to get the necessary financial support. We must also recognise other efforts being made by the government to keep the economy buoyant and a force to reckon with. It has showed real intention for a continued growth. 

 

Truly, many economic analysts remain optimistic in their views of West African economies but the impact of the Ebola crisis has made it clear that all is not well. Businesses are ceasing operations and people are losing their jobs. In The Gambia, many sectors remain badly affected. Even though the country remains Ebola-free, any resurgence of the virus in the region will surely add insult to injury. 

 

The Ebola epidemic is disrupting the progress achieved in the growth of our economy. The race to put our economy back on track has been blown open and more resources will be required to bring the Ebola epidemic to an end. And while the region pull resources together to rapidly contain the epidemic, its adverse impact on growth may be extended over time. The latest initiatives including the Ebola Vaccine trials is worthy of support but it is essential that all stakeholders especially government and health officers carry their weight.

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