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The cost of Ebola

Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 02:13

As Sierra Leone prepares for a three-day ''lockdown'' in its latest bid to stem the spread of Ebola, Ciara Lee looks at the financial implications of fighting the largest ever outbreak of the disease.

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Preparing for lockdown in Sierra Leone. It's a desperate attempt to stem the spread of Ebola which has claimed the lives of around 2 and half thousand people in West Africa. (SOUNDBITE)(English) MAHAWA ALLIEU SAYING: "It is better to stay at home for three days, even twenty one days, than to loose thousands of people in a single day." But it'll take more than a three-day curfew. The United Nations estimates it will cost a billion dollars to simply contain Ebola. And the World Bank says West Africa's fledgling economies could be drained of billions more. Guinea's economic growth could shrink by 2.3 percent next year while Sierra Leone could lose 9 percent. And Liberia could suffer even more - possibly seeing an 11 percent fall. Losses in this year's output for all three could also hit over $350 million. The Bank and the IMF have together pledged over $300 million in emergency assistance and the United States has offered up 3,000 troops. But inflation and food prices are already starting to rise due to panic buying. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SIERRA LEONE RESIDENT, SAYING: "I have come to buy medicine, food and all necessary things even water at home so that me and my family will not go through these constraints." Business in neighbouring countries, including Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal could also be hit. But there is some hope on the horizon. An experimental Ebola vaccine - being fast-tracked through trials - has been given to the first UK human volunteer. Adrian Hill from University of Oxford is leading the project. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DIRECTOR OF JENNER INSTITUTE, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, PROFESSOR ADRIAN HILL, SAYING: "Just about a month ago, we had no idea that this vaccine existed or was going to be available for clinical testing. And a partnership has come together in the last month of WHO, the World Health Organisation, the Wellcome Trust, GlaxoSmithKline, the University of Oxford and our partners in West Africa to accelerate the development of this vaccine into the clinic and hopefully very soon into West Africa." The vaccine has also been given to 10 volunteers in America. But an end to the crisis is still a long way off - even if these trials are successful the vaccine will need testing in Africa. It's a long process and in the meantime the costs - both human and financial - keep adding up.

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The cost of Ebola

Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 02:13