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The escalating cost of Ebola

Thursday, October 09, 2014 - 02:25

Concerns over the potential economic impact of the Ebola outbreak are growing after the World Bank warned the region could face a $32bln economic hit if the disease is not contained. Ciara Lee looks at the reasosn why?

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Ebola burial teams in Sierra Leone are back at work - they'd walked out over unpaid bonuses leaving highly infectious bodies piling up. The spread of the virus has overwhelmed weak health systems in West Africa. And the long-term repercussions are only now becoming clear. The World Bank says the cost to West Africa could top $32 billion dollars by the end of next year if the epidemic spreads significantly beyond worst-hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. They had been experiencing rapid economic growth. IMF Chief Christine Lagarde says this is one occasion when spending is justified. (SOUNDBITE) (English) IMF CHIEF, CHRISTINE LAGARDE, SAYING: "It is good to increase the fiscal deficit when it is a matter of curing the people. Of taking the precautions to actually try to contain the disease. The IMF doesn't say that very often." One of the biggest threats for the countries hardest hit is the labour market. Industries like mining rely heavily on manual labour. But many workers are choosing to stay at home. A slow down in trade and a fall in direct investment is also a problem. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has been discussing the crisis the leaders of worst-hit countries. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WORLD BANK PRESIDENT JIM YONG KIM SAYING: "Every day that we don't invest, every day that we we don't put money into stopping the crisis is many many more dollars and pounds that we're going to have to use later. It is an extremely good investment right now to prevent this kind of loss, to put all the money on the table right now to get the response going." The crisis is no longer contained to just Africa. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States died on Wednesday. A Spanish nurse is being seriously ill in Madrid after contracting the disease from a patient. And an Australian nurse who recently returned from Sierra Leone, is under observation in hospital. Jim O'Neill is a former Chairman of Goldman Sachs. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FORMER CHAIRMAN OF GOLDMAN SACHS, ASSET MANAGEMENT, JIM O'NEILL SAYING: "If this frightening disease were to escalate, it would result in people getting very worried about restrictions on movements of people and trade between countries. So I think the consequences would be felt quite quickly." Official figures from the World Health Organisation now put the number of Ebola fatalities at 3,865. But that's only the number of notified deaths the true total is much higher.

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The escalating cost of Ebola

Thursday, October 09, 2014 - 02:25