The European Union is serious about helping West Africa — not only to fight Ebola but also bolster regional economies to overcome the long-term consequences of the epidemic that threatens to cripple the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for years to come.
During an official visit to Guinea in early December attended by Devex, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica announced a new 61 million-euro ($74.8 million) financial assistance package to link health, sanitation and environmental development programs.
Half of that money will go to Guinea, where the commissioner also launched the overall EU funding package — the so-called National Indicative Program — for the country in 2014-2020 worth a total of 244 million euros. This will see about 70 million euros pumped into the national health system over the next seven years — double the country’s health budget before the Ebola outbreak.
The NIP is a crucial step in EU aid programming under the 2014-2020 11th European Development Fund, which covers the bloc’s development cooperation with 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. NIPs are prepared in close cooperation with the partner country to ensure that they support national priorities, based on the government’s own assessment of needs as well as being in line with the EU’s own “Agenda for Change” vision, which calls for resources to be targeted where they are most needed and can be the most effective.
In the Guinean capital of Conakry, Mimica visited a hospital serving some 700,000 of the city’s estimated two million inhabitants; one of Conakry’s few waste collection sites, in a nation that suffers from poor sanitation provisions and that burns most of its waste on the side of the road; and an EU-funded plastic recycling center.
These and other EU-funded long-term plans for West Africa go “hand in hand with short-term crisis response efforts to the epidemics,” the commissioner told a select group of reporters in Conakry.
“Our new pledge will help the countries affected by Ebola to better deal with the multiple challenges that arise from this crisis,” Mimica said. “The EU stands firmly side-by-side with the people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; both in overcoming Ebola, as well as over the medium and long term. We need to make sure that the countries can quickly recover from this crisis and get back on a path of sustainable development.”
Reinforcing the health system, he noted, is an “absolute priority,” but stressed the need to address development needs on a broader scale.
The latest financial assistance package for Guinea brings the EU's total financial contribution to fight Ebola in all affected West African nations to over 1 billion euros. This includes funding from EU member states and the European Commission, which has given more than 434 million euros covering emergency measures and longer-term support.
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