The Ebola-stricken nations of West Africa are asking international donors to cancel their debts and give about $6 billion over two years to rebuild their economies, devastated by the deadly disease.
Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma said this ahead of leaders of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia who would unveil their regional reconstruction programmes at a meeting on Friday in Washington.
Also expected at the meeting are the heads of the World Bank, the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund.
“Our social services are ruined, our economies have halted, and we need a real Marshall Plan to take us out of the woods,”Koroma said.
Koroma said he wants World Bank to deliver on its promise last year of regional reconstruction on the scale of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II.
“The three nations also need about $4 billion in debt forgiveness over and above the relief already provided,’’ he said.
“If that (debt) is cancelled and support is provided to our regional programme, it will take us a long way forward in our transformation agenda,” Koroma said.
The request is sizable. Already the international community has pledged $5.6 billion to tackle Ebola and the damage it has wrought.
More than 10,000 people have died since the virus struck West Africa a year ago and 25,791 people have been diagnosed with the disease, rocking a region still recovering from civil wars.
The number of new Ebola infections has fallen sharply recently, raising prospects for zero infections soon.
The World Health Organisation reported 37 confirmed cases in the week to April 12, down from 150 four-week earlier.
But the social and economic toll has been immense. The healthcare systems have collapsed, schools closed, flights were cancelled, workers left and unemployment has soared.