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World Bank President warns against Food Crisis

By Amadu Lamrana Bah

The President of the World Bank group, Dr Jim Yong Kim says his organisation is prioritising support to farmers in Ebola hit countries to prevent a food security crisis as a result of the Ebola epidemic outbreak

Dr. Kim made this commitment on Wednesday during a joint press briefing with President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone. The World Bank President is in Sierra Leone as part of a two day visit in the three Ebola hit countries to assess the containment strategy and the epidemic’s economic impact on the affected countries.

He said the international community should support the Sierra Leone government to ensure the current Ebola crisis does not result in a food security crisis.

Dr Kim said he is worried about the impact of the outbreak on the countries’ economies especially on their agricultural sector.

He however assured of the World Bank’s support in salvaging the situation “We’ll help farmers recover from this crisis by building feeder roads that connect small farmers to market,” Kim stated.

In addition to supporting the agricultural sector to recover from the shocks of the outbreak, Dr. Kim highlighted other areas his institution will be intervening on.

“We are accelerating our support to Sierra Leone and we plan to deliver a comprehensive economic recovery package in two years instead of three”.

Explaining his institution’s contribution so far he revealed that the Bank has already provided 160 million dollars to Sierra Leone for the Ebola crisis. And as part of their continued support to the objective of getting zero cases of Ebola as soon as possible they will support five areas which would require huge resources and intensifying efforts in the west and north of the country, particularly in the capital Freetown and Port Loko – the hotspots of the epidemic.

Dr. Kim also said they will help to improve basic infrastructure such as urban social services and access to electricity that will help the well-being of citizens. He added that it is important to support the Government to mitigate the economic consequences on the most vulnerable members of society.

Dr Kim went on to say that “Sierra Leone must emerge from the Ebola epidemic much stronger than it was before the outbreak”. To achieve this, Dr. Kim laid out some of the concrete the World Bank would help with. “We can build the infrastructure, we can train the health workers as much that we can do in responding to the epidemic that we think can enhance economic growth and recovery afterwards,”he stated.

He further reaffirmed to the government and people of Sierra Leone that the “the World Bank Group together with its partners especially the UK is committed to supporting Sierra Leone authorities in their emergency response but as well in their longer time economic recovery”.

According to an Ebola Economic Impact Update released on the 2nd December by the World Bank Group, the Ebola epidemic continues to cripple the economies of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. These economies are projected to result in negative or contracting growth next year as they work to eradicate the virus.

The Bank is now projecting negative growth for 2015 of 0.2% in Guinea down from pre-crisis estimates of 4.3 percent and 2.0 percent in October and 2.0% in Sierra Leone down from 8.9 percent and 7.7 percent in October.  Meanwhile, in Liberia, where there are signs of progress in containing the epidemic and some increasing economic activities the updated 2015 growth estimate is 3.0% an increase from 1.0 percent in October but still less than half the pre-crisis estimate of 6.8%.

In Sierra Leone, the situation continues to be grim. According to latest statistics from the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) total cumulative confirmed cases is 6,132 and cumulative confirmed death is 1,601. November alone recorded more than 2,000 cases.

The visit of the World Bank president is therefore considered timely as it provides not only hope for economic recovery but, as an expert in disease control and prevention, Jim Kim also shares of strategic thinking on how to defeat such epidemic.

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