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Ebola Virus Outbreak

Ebola Hurts More Than the Sick: World Bank

Ebola is ruining the economies of Liberia and Sierra Leone and may cause widespread food shortages as farmers struggle to bring in harvests, according to a New World Bank report.

The World Bank, which is working to get nearly $1 billion to the three hardest-hit West African countries, says nearly half of Liberian breadwinners are out of work and 60 percent of women are jobless. That’s in spite of construction and health jobs created by the crisis.

And 80 percent of farmers said their harvest was smaller this year than last, mostly because Ebola’s made it hard to work in groups.

“Around two-thirds of households responded that they were not able to purchase enough rice to meet their needs in the previous two weeks, and nearly 80 percent of those cited a lack of money as the main reason rather than availability or high prices. Rice prices continue to be 40 percent above the January baseline,” the World Bank said in a statement.

The World Bank has devised a real-time telephone survey system to keep on top of how the epidemic is affecting countries. That’s a big step forward in the world of big, international organizations, which usually rely on a ponderous system of reporting that can provide data years after it’s out of date.

Ebola has infected more than 21,000 people and killed more than 8,200 of them. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were barely emerging from decades of civil war and political uncertainty and were already among the poorest countries in the world.

In Sierra Leone, the World Bank said, nearly 180,000 people have lost their jobs since the summer. For non-farming household enterprises, revenue’s gone down by 40 percent on average.

“These job losses have been caused mainly by the indirect effects of necessary preventive measures to restrict disease spread and by the general disruption to the economy caused by the outbreak,” the World Bank said. Even areas where Ebola is not currently spreading are suffering.

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-- Maggie Fox