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Liberia: We need a 'Marshall Plan' for Ebola-stricken nations

The Liberian president has called on the global community not to forget that the devastation caused by Ebola isn't over. The worst-hit nations need financial help to overcome what the virus has done to their economies.

Liberian President and Nobel laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called for a "Marshall Plan" on Thursday to help rebuild the West African nations whose people and economies have been devastated by the Ebola virus.

Speaking at an international conference on Ebola in Brussels, Sirleaf said "we need our international partners to remain committed to us," as the death toll from the disease approaches 10,000, with nearly all fatalities coming from just three nations: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

"The most important long-term response to Ebola rests on plans and strategies for economic recovery. This will require significant resources, perhaps even a Marshall Plan," the president added, referencing the vast US plan that helped Europe recover from the Second World War.

Her Guinean counterpart echoed the sentiment: "We are talking about a Marshall Plan because Ebola is like a war," President Alpha Conde said.

The outbreak focused in an area of West Africa roughly the size of France, affecting a population of about 20 million people in a region with limited infrastructure. Although the number of new cases of the disease is going down, bringing it down to zero will take a significant effort. The virus has seriously undermined the three nations' already fragile economies.

Number of new cases in sharp decline

About $4.9 billion (4.3 billion euros) has been pledged internationally, though only around half of that has actually been dispersed. Nevertheless, huge strides have been made as the number of new cases in down to 100 a week, dropping from a height of 800-900 in August and September.

Experts and officials warn however that tracking down and treating the last cases and monitoring everyone they have come into contact with remains a huge challenge.

"We have turned a corner, but even as we have shown an improvement in results, the virus is still with us. We are still in a fight," said Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma.

Elhadj As Sy, head of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies also warned against loss of momentum, saying "the Ebola outbreak is not over and complacency, both at local and global levels, would be one of our worst enemies."

es/jil (AP, AFP)

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