Ebola Outbreak 2014 Update: Congress Approves $5.4 Billion To Fight Ebola, UN Commission Asks For Debt Forgiveness For Ebola Stricken Countries
Congress in its $1.1 trillion 2015 budget approved $5.4 billion to fight Ebola at home and abroad.
Some $2.5 billion of the total would help African countries fight the disease, while $2.7 billion would go to the Department of Health and Human Services, including $1.2 billion for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's efforts to stop Ebola in West Africa and strengthen public health systems in at-risk countries, reported The Associated Press.
A U.N. commission is seeking debt forgiveness for three West African nations stricken by the Ebola Virus.
At a conference in Ethiopia, the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission (ECA) for Africa said Monday it is crucial that the current Ebola health crisis not be a catalyst for financial distress in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
"In Africa we are dealing with a stigma that is growing by the day and this is going to affect economies that have nothing to do with Ebola," said Carlos Lopes, U.N. under secretary-general and executive secretary of ECA.
The announcement coincides with the release of a report on the socio-economic impact of Ebola on Africa. The World Health Organization says over 17,000 cases have been reported with over 6,000 deaths. The three countries with the highest rates of Ebola -- Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- have common characteristics, such as political fragility and a recent history marked by civil war and weakened institutional capacity.
The report said the epidemic is already having measurable economic effects: Food supplies are dwindling, and jobs are lost as some countries close borders. Specifically, mortality and morbidity have hit the number of farmers who can work in agriculture (whether directly or through looking after loved ones). They have also taken away skilled workers from the labor market, especially in health, where nearly three out of five of those infected have died.
"The ultimate effect of the disease, in terms of labor and productivity is thus to hurt economic activity, the tax base and public revenue collection," the report's authors said.
The report said the three countries have benefited from the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative in the past 10 years, but the ECA is appealing to stakeholders for more debt cancellation for the three countries.
Earlier this month, the United Nations, in a vote 128 to 16, formally began negotiations to create a global bankruptcy framework. The process could prevent global financial crisis, limit country defaults and stop predatory behavior.
Sixteen countries voted against the resolution to include Australia, much of the European Union, Japan and the United States. The resolution calls for the U.N. to create a committee and to begin work in January and to complete its works before September 2015. The vote came in the wake of the Argentina losing a major sovereign debt case to a group of predatory funds.
"It's incredibly exciting that this vote passed with such strong support," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA. "Even among the countries that voted not, there is universal agreement on the problems. A global bankruptcy process is necessary to prevent global financial crisis."
The U.N. report said if the outbreak is limited to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the size of the impact on Gross Domestic Product levels and growth in Africa will be extremely small.
"The three countries account for only 0.68 percent of Africa's GDP. The report estimates that Ebola's impact on the continent's GDP levels in 2014 and 2015 will be only -0.19 percent and -0.15 percent," the report said.
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