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Saturday, October 22, 2016
- When the Ebola epidemic devastated three West African countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea two years ago – the international community responded with pledges of over $5.8 billion in funds to fight the disease which has killed over 11,300 people.
But six months after the International Conference on Ebola Recovery, hosted by the United Nations, about $1.9 billion worth of promised funds have not been delivered, while “scant information” is available about the remaining $3.9 billion, according to a new study released here by Oxfam International.
The pledged recovery funds has “proved almost impossible to track,” said the UK-based aid and development charity.
Asked if the lack of transparency is due to corruption, David Saldivar, Oxfam America’s Policy and Advocacy Manager, told IPS: “This lack of transparency is not due to a single cause – it is a systemic challenge that is the collective responsibility of all—donors, governments, and implementing organizations—to improve.”
Oxfam believes that more funding should be given directly to local governments and organizations, as they understand the context and need best and are more accountable to the local communities they serve, he added.
Asked about the gap between pledges and delivery, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS: “It is important that the countries that did such excellent work in dealing with the recent Ebola crisis receive the funds that had been pledged to them.”
The Ebola outbreak has not only been a setback to the economies of affected countries but also shattered already inadequate health systems and ruined people’s livelihoods, according to Oxfam.
Still, the Ebola epidemic is not over yet. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced last week that another 150 people were exposed to the risk of Ebola in Sierra Leone.
“This is not the end of Ebola in West Africa or globally”, said Oxfam, pointing out that it has taken almost two years, more than 11,300 deaths, massive provision of resources, technical assistance and billions of US dollars from around the world to tackle the Ebola epidemic in West Africa – specifically Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.”
As African Heads of State meet in Addis Ababa this week to discuss making 2016 the year of Human Rights in Africa, Oxfam is calling on them to focus attention on the Right to Health.
“The slow identification and response by government health services to the recent cases in Sierra Leone and Liberia clearly demonstrate that they are still not capable of responding effectively to Ebola and other highly contagious diseases. “
In April 2001, heads of state of African Union (AU) countries met and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15% of their annual budget to improve the health sector.
In 2013, just before the Ebola outbreak only 6 AU member States had met these commitments and the ECOWAS (West African) average was at only 8% with Sierra Leone just 6.22%, according to Oxfam.
Aboubacry Tall, Oxfam’s Regional Director for West Africa, said: “Although Oxfam and other organizations responded by mobilizing community volunteers, this is not enough. If we are going to succeed, communities need to be a part of the process and a part of the planning, from the very beginning.”
“After the recent outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, I was horrified to see the same patterns of distrust emerging. Rumors were rampant, some people didn’t believe it was Ebola and others felt that it had been re-introduced on purpose. Rumors like these are extremely dangerous and can lead to community complacency.”
In order to prevent the same tragedy from happening again, Oxfam urges the Governments of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to empower communities to take a leading role in their own healthcare, by making sure that local people are put at the heart of decisions about where resources go, and how they are used.
Oxfam’s experience during the Ebola response has shown that community leadership and trust in local health systems is absolutely vital and should be considered a medical necessity, he added.
Asked whether the decline in funds was due to the global economic recession and the fall in oil prices, Saldivar told IPS the global humanitarian system is stretched by an unprecedented number of simultaneous crises, which makes it all the more important that countries recovering from shocks like the Ebola outbreak have the tools and support they need, including the information they need to plan and manage the recovery.
“The biggest problem is with efforts to track recovery funds is the lack of a single system for consistently reporting clear, up-to-date information across all donors.”
He pointed out that different donors report information in different ways, making it difficult for local actors to follow the funds.
Over $1 billion of funds pledged from major donors are available for countries to draw from as governments determine their most critical recovery needs.
“It is reasonable that only 6 months after the UN conference, that not all pledged funds have been spent. But, the key issue is that local stakeholders deserve to have the most up to date information on the situation so they can monitor and have a say in how resources are spent,” he noted.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org