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Ebola batters Sierra Leone economy too

Friday, September 12, 2014 - 02:06

The World Health Organisation warns that local health workers in West Africa can't keep up with Ebola - and among those countries hardest hit by the outbreak, the economic damage is coming into focus, too. As David Pollard reports, Sierra Leone admits that growth in one of the poorest economies in the region is taking a beating.

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They're words nobody wanted to hear - not least the governments concerned. SOUNDBITE: WHO Director General Margaret Chan, saying (English): "In the three hardest-hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the number of new cases is moving far faster than the capacity to manage them in the Ebola-specific treatment centres." Almost five thousand cases were confirmed by the World Health Organisation's latest briefing - 2,400 deaths. Over 500 of those are in Sierra Leone - whose economic figures make worrying reading too. Growth has been slashed from an 11.5 per cent target. Somewhere around seven percent now seen as more likely. And: government revenues have been falling since Ebola first broke out. Joe Bangura is an economic analyst in Freetown. SOUNDBITE Economic Analyst, Joe Abass Bangura, saying (English): "With a knock-on effect on the economy, the finance minister has announced that maybe the country has lost revenue and diverted funds, that government is losing about 63 million dollars over a period of 107 days if we are counting." Those prices are likely to rise even more - at least in the short term. Under a government-ordered lockdown, nobody will be allowed to leave their home for three days from next Friday. It's hoped it'll slow the spread of the virus - though some aid agencies say it could drive Ebola sufferers into hiding, making things worse. In the meantime, locals in the capital are withdrawing their cash ahead of the lockdown. Others stocking up on food whilst they can. SOUNDBITE Economic Analyst, Joe Abass Bangura, saying (English): "Between 10 and 15 percent increase has already taken place in the price of basic commodities like rice, oil, onions, those basic things that people would need on a day-to-day basis, prices have actually increased." The end of Sierra Leone's civil war just over a decade ago spurred investment from big mining companies. Rapid economic growth followed - even if development lagged. But those miners are cutting back on activity in the face of the disease - and the health system is struggling to cope against the worst Ebola epidemic on record.

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Ebola batters Sierra Leone economy too

Friday, September 12, 2014 - 02:06