Washington – African leaders chided the international community on Thursday for its slow response to the Ebola crisis and appealed to the world to turn promises of aid into action on the ground.
In emotional appeals to a high-level meeting of major donors gathered at the World Bank, the leaders of the worst affected countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, said they needed everything from treatment centres to healthcare workers, equipment and funding.
“Our people are dying,” Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Koroma told the meeting in Washington via video conference. “Without you we can’t succeed, without your quick response a tragedy unforeseen in modern times will threaten the well-being and compromise the security of people everywhere,” he said.
The disease has killed nearly 4 000 people in the three west African countries, in the worst outbreak on record. Concern has spread after the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States died on Wednesday and the condition of a Spanish nurse infected with the virus worsened on Thursday.
Koroma appealed for more urgency from donors.
“The last few weeks have been weeks of massive concerns and commitments to the fight. However, the general international response has been slower than the rate of transmission of the disease,” Koroma said.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, also speaking by video conference, listed her country’s vast needs and called for a “more timely and decisive response” by foreign governments.
She said that within the next month treatment and testing centers were needed, staffed by both local and foreign health workers, with more resources to set up community care centers, as well as help for healthcare workers dealing with non-Ebola patients.
“We need to ensure that it all comes together immediately,” Johnson Sirleaf said.
Too little, too late
Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, urged donors not to impose excessive bureaucratic structures, calling the response so far “too slow, too little, too late.”
The World Bank on Wednesday estimated that the two-year economic impact to the region if Ebola is not contained will reach $32.6bn.
“Unless we quickly stop this Ebola epidemic, nothing less than the future of Africa is at stake,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in opening remarks at the meeting on Thursday.
Sierra Leone and Liberia are still emerging from years of civil war, which left basic infrastructure in ruins and their governments dependent on aid, although they have been helped by stronger economic growth and growing foreign investment in recent years.
The round table included 40 officials from donor governments, development groups and global institutions, and took place alongside IMF and World Bank meetings in Washington.
Bruce Aylward, assistant director-general for polio and emergencies at the World Health Organization, said there was still no common strategy among donors, “and we must get to common purpose very, very quickly.”
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