Mugabe calls for debt cancellation for ebola hit countries

NEW YORK – President Robert Mugabe has reiterated the African Union’s call for debt cancellation for the three countries worst affected by the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

He also urged the private sector in those countries to do more. Zimbabwe’s head of state was speaking at an Ebola recovery conference at the UN in New York in his capacity as Chair of the African Union.

The heads of state of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone also presented detailed plans to build back resilient health systems and infrastructure announcing a funding gap of 7.2 billion dollars.

The AU Chair came with a message, that health epidemics bring far-reaching consequences on the economic, social and cultural spheres.

President Mugabe says “It is important to recognise and emphasise the need to embrace inclusive and complementary Ebola-response mechanism which should have realistic focus on capacity building to strengthening health delivery systems, improving access to safe water and sanitation and reviving economic activities which have been disrupted by the outbreak.”

President Mugabe called for the three countries debts to be scrapped. “We reiterate the African Union’s call for debt cancellation for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as this will free up the countries’ resources and allow them to focus on investing in recovery and in building resilience; to ensure that they can effectively address any potential resurgence of the virus. We also call for the increased social responsibility on the part of the private sector, particularly those companies engage in the extraction of natural resources.”

Projected growth shows Guinea’s economy will shrink from 4.5 to 1.3%, Sierra Leone from 11.3 to 6% and Liberia from almost
6 to just 0.4%  with investors pulling out, health systems collapsed  and trade and travel contracted.

As new infections struggle to reach and stay at zero, the focus at this conference is largely on post Ebola recovery

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf presented the regional plan on behalf of the three countries.

“In the spirit of your continuous support for the implementation of both national and sub-regional plans, we wish to inform you that the gab of financing is estimated at $7.2 billion. In which 4 billion will finance the sub regional plan. There is no doubt that the resources required are significant. We believe however that this can be achieved through existing bilateral and multilateral commitments supplemented by the allocation of additional resources.”

Secretary General Ban Ki moon warned the final stretch of the response remains particularly challenging.

“That is why today is about more than speeches and pledges – it is a chance to forge a partnership for a better future – a future that is full of opportunity and free of Ebola. Our task is also to learn from our shortcomings and translate the lessons learned from this crisis in building back better. To do anything less would compound the tragedy.”

As new infections struggle to reach and stay at zero, the focus at this conference is largely on post Ebola recovery.

This as the virus remains undefeated, even in Liberia that in May announced it was Ebola free only for the disease to re-emerge a month later.

But UN officials are sure they are on the right track, so much so that the UN Ebola Mission will close next month, handing over efforts to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

As the focus slowly shifts from eradication to ensuring that were anything similar ever to emerge in the future, the national responses would be able to withstand the test.

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