Welcome everyone, and many thanks for joining us so early in the morning in Washington for this important meeting on the Ebola crisis.
Given the seriousness of the crisis, we welcome those around the globe who are joining us online. You can join the conversation on Twitter at #EbolaResponse.
I am pleased that we are joined here in Washington by President Condé of Guinea, and President Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and President Komora of Sierra Leone by videoconference. Thank you, your Excellencies, for joining us.
Ladies and gentlemen, unless we quickly contain and stop this Ebola epidemic, nothing less than the future of Africa is at stake.
The Ebola crisis in West Africa has already infected more than 8,033 people and claimed more than 3,879 lives, and the epidemic continues to spread rapidly.
The Ebola crisis has already had a profound impact on the millions of people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. People are going hungry and are unable to go to work. At least 6 million children are unable to go to school, and thousands have been orphaned. Many businesses have shut down their operations; farmers are unable to harvest their crops. Airline flights are being cancelled; trade has diminished.
Growth projections for 2014 the three most-affected countries have already been cut significantly.
Just yesterday, the World Bank Group released a new economic impact assessment that says that if the epidemic is not quickly contained and was to significantly infect people in neighboring countries, some of which have much larger economies, the two-year regional financial impact could reach US$32.6 billion dollars by the end of 2015.
This is a potentially catastrophic impact.
Over the past week, we have had a patient die of Ebola here in America, and now at least one infected nurse in Spain. We are likely to see more cases, in more countries.
Over the past month, we’ve seen a stepped up global response, with support from a number of countries and organizations at this table.
But it’s clear that we are still way behind the curve, and that we have to quickly speed up, and scale up, the global response to this crisis. One issue I’d like to raise briefly is the critical need for more trained health workers in the countries. The World Health Organization has just estimated that Liberia alone needs an additional 360 foreign medical staff today to treat those infected. We now must reach out to countries around the world to urgently send health workers to the three countries.
Today, I would like to invite the three heads of state to be very frank, and share with us their specific challenges and needs with respect to the immediate and near-term health and socio-economic impacts from this crisis.
Then we will have an open discussion. I will ask you to respond to what you hear from the heads of state, and discuss what concrete actions we can all take to help the countries speed up the epidemic response and mitigate the economic and development impacts.
First, let me invite my Annual Meetings co-host, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, to say a few words.