African leaders urge Ebola ‘Marshall Plan’

Leaders of the west African countries worst hit by Ebola have urged the world to back a Marshall Plan to help them stamp out the disease and rebuild their shattered economies.

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Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma and Guinean President Alpha Conde pressed the need for recovery at an international conference in Brussels as the number of new cases slows.

More than 9700 people have died of the disease since the west African epidemic emerged in southern Guinea in December 2013, with nearly 24,000 people infected, according to the World Health Organization.

“The impact of Ebola on our economies has been profound. The most important long-term response to Ebola therefore rests in plans and strategies for economic recovery,” Sirleaf told the EU-backed conference.

“There is no doubt this will require significant resources, even a Marshall Plan,” she said, referring to the US-led aid plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II.

Conde also underlined the need for a Marshall Plan, telling a press conference that it was as if the region is “coming out of a war” with its economy and public services decimated.

The International Monetary Fund in Washington this week approved funding and debt relief worth about $US187 million ($A239.10 million) for Sierra Leone for coming years, with $US85 million of that to be disbursed immediately.

The charity Oxfam has previously made similar calls for a Marshall Plan-type effort to help stricken west Africa.

The countries at the centre of the Ebola epidemic are forecast to lose 12 per cent of their combined gross domestic product this year, according to World Bank estimates.

In addition, their health sectors have been partially wiped out by the epidemic or forced to divert resources to fighting Ebola at the expense of other diseases like measles, malaria and AIDS.