By Modupeola Oyebolu
Of the five West African countries where Ebola cases have been reported so far, Liberia has been the worst hit. Although it has the smallest population of the group, more than half of the 7,470 cases on record have occurred there. The highest number of deaths, 2,069, has also been in Liberia. These deaths are the more obvious tragedy of Ebola, but the virus has also had an impact on the nation’s economy.
The BBC reported in August that a mine expansion by the world’s largest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal, was halted as the Ebola outbreak ballooned. The nation’s finance minister, Amara Konneh, also told Allafrica.com that the fear and uncertainty that comes with the disease has disrupted daily life in Liberia, affecting everything from food prices to transport costs. These events are damaging to the effort to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, which was ruined in almost 14 years of war. “We were just starting to work our way out of poverty at the time Ebola struck,” President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said in a national address dated Sept. 17. “We were poised to turn investment into operations so as to create the jobs we need; we had made significant progress to reform our education system and improve our health system.”
That health system is also overwhelmed by Ebola. This has meant that Liberians suffering from other illnesses are unable to get the care they need. Cynthia Quiqui, the chair of a group of Liberians living with HIV, recently told a local paper that many of the group’s members have died since the outbreak began. Additionally, 172 healthcare workers have been infected with Ebola and 82 of them have died.
There are also concerns that the Ebola outbreak could lead to a food crisis. The World Food Programme reports that the food chains in the three nations with the highest number of Ebola cases— Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia— are being threatened as many farmers are abandoning their crops in a bid to avoid infection. Restrictions on movement and bans on some traditional protein sources are also contributing to the risk of a food shortage.
It is clear that the rise in Ebola cases has had multiple implications on life in Liberia. Because its spread is unrelenting, the World Health Organization has introduced a new plan to complement ongoing efforts to combat the virus. The United States has also committed 3,000 soldiers to help build additional care facilities. These new efforts are necessary so that the Liberian people can resume rebuilding their nation again.