In 2014, the world witnessed one of the worst intercontinental bouts ever seen of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). West Africa bore the brunt of infections, while the US and Europe were not spared. According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), over 11,000 people have lost their lives to this fatal disease with most cases recorded in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. In 2008-09, Zimbabwe was ravaged by cholera, which, according to the World Health Organization, saw more than 98,592 cases and 4,288 deaths recorded.
These examples illustrate human disasters that can happen when a country has not invested in adequate systems to provide basic services. The contrast can be shown by looking at neighbouring nations, where investment in basic healthcare and water & sanitation systems is much higher. Due to these countries’ stronger systems and better ability to control outbreaks, the impacts of diseases such as Ebola and cholera was minimised. For instance, Nigeria recorded only 20 cases and eight fatalities of Ebola before it successfully contained the virus. During the cholera outbreak, in southern Africa, South Africa recorded 12,000 cases and 59 deaths – too many, of course, but far fewer than in Zimbabwe.
A major UN summit – the Financing for Development (FFD) Conference – is taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, next week. Here, governments have the opportunity to agree a historic principle: that nobody, even the most vulnerable citizens in the poorest countries of the world, should be without access to decent healthcare, education, and water & sanitation. ONE is calling on leaders to make sure that the FFD consensus includes strong commitments to fully fund and deliver a social compact for all people, especially vulnerable girls & women, by 2020. We want to see all African governments promise to make national plans to deliver this, and where domestic financing is not enough – particularly in the least developed countries (LDCs) – we want to see development assistance providers promise to fill the gap.
Not only do these things help to contain and prevent the worst of potential health crises that cause terrible human suffering. Good-quality health and education services also form the basis of sustainable and inclusive economic growth on the continent. Due to virulent disease outbreaks, Africa has lost many people who could have contributed to economic prosperity. They have affected the social fabric of entire communities, resulting in the orphaning of many children, and disruption to work and trade. For example, the World Bank reported that during the Ebola crisis, nearly 85% of Liberians had to sell assets, slaughter livestock, borrow money, send children to live with relatives, spend savings, or delay investments in order to manage. A wide range of sectors was affected from agriculture, to tourism, to trade. Such economic devastation is particularly challenging in the poorest countries where budgets are already meagre and over-stretched.
In September, world leaders will set ambitious new Global Goals for development progress to be achieved over the next 15 years, including ending extreme poverty. From 2016, the clock will start ticking. Africa will not meet these goals without investment in strong and resilient health, education, and water & sanitation system that reach the last girl at the end of the last mile. Strong and resilient basic services cannot be achieved without sufficient financing, particularly from improved domestic revenues, backed up by development assistance.
Join us in telling African leaders to #DoWhatsRight at FFD and commit to a social compact to deliver decent basic services to all.