UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Some $3.4 billion in pledges were made at the United Nations on Friday to help Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea stamp out Ebola and begin rebuilding health systems and economies devastated by the worst outbreak on record of the deadly hemorrhagic fever.
The United Nations had said that $3.2 billion was needed to support the three states’ national recovery plans for the next two years. Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had said $4 billion was needed to cover a separate sub-regional plan.
Helen Clark, head of the U.N. Development Programme, said the preliminary tally of pledges on Friday took the total amount allocated so far for Ebola recovery to more than $5 billion, which she described as “a great start.”
Johnson-Sirleaf also again appealed for international donors to cancel debt owed by the West African nations.
“The world as a whole has a great stake in how we together respond to this global threat,” Johnson-Sirleaf told the pledging conference. “Diseases, just like terrorism, know no national boundaries.”
The Ebola outbreak, which began in Guinea in December 2013, has killed more than 11,200 people across West Africa. Ebola re-emerged in Liberia last week, nearly two months after it was declared free of the virus, while neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone are still struggling to eliminate it.
“The threat is never over until we rebuild the health sectors Ebola demolished, until we rebuild the livelihoods in agriculture that it compromised, until we shore up government revenues it dried up; and until we breathe life again into the private sector it has suffocated,” Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma told the U.N. conference.
Among the largest pledges were some $381 million from Britain, $266 million from the United States, $650 million from the World Bank, $220 million from Germany, $500 million from the European Union, $745 million from the African Development Bank and $360 million from the Islamic Development Bank.
“We cannot yet breathe a sigh of relief. Instead, let us collectively take a deep breath and resolve to finish the job,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier on Friday.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Toni Reinhold