Sierra Leone President Bemoans Ebola’s Impact

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma says the Ebola outbreak has been devastating to his country’s economy, crippling businesses and households. But the country is focused on rebuilding its health system and economy.

His government is considering establishing a Center for Disease Control to help prevent and combat future disease outbreaks. “We will be required to train more of our personnel,” he said in an interview with VOA.

Koroma’s remarks followed a Wednesday meeting at the White House. U.S. President Barack Obama had invited the leaders of the three West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola epidemic – Koroma, Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf and Guinean President Alpha Condé – to assess progress against the disease and toward socioeconomic recovery.

Since the Ebola outbreak began in late 2013 in Guinea, 25,791 cases have been reported, with 10,689 deaths, according to the World Health Organization’s latest report. All but a few infections have occurred in the three countries. Sierra Leone alone had 12,201 reported cases and 3,857 deaths.

While Sierra Leone reported nine new cases last week, the overall caseload is declining and the disease is fading from the region.

Koroma told VOA the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.

“As a result of Ebola, most businesses shut down,” he said. “A good number of the mining companies ceased operations, flights were canceled to the country, tourism was almost brought to a standstill, and even within the country, businesses that were operating scaled down substantially.”

“So, there was a considerable slowdown in the economy; loss of revenue to government, loss of revenue to individuals and businesses and the country was more or less isolated. Nobody ventured in, nobody will discuss business at this time,” Koroma added.

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