International donors have promised billions of dollars to help Ebola-hit countries in West Africa recover from the epidemic. More than 11,000 people have died since the virus broke out in late 2013.
The new funds - a total of $3.4 billion (3 billion euros) - announced at a United Nations conference on Friday, are meant to help Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone rebuild their devastated economies and health systems.
"We consider this a very encouraging response," UN development chief Helen Clark told reporters at the end of the meeting. "This puts the recovery off to a very positive start."
Clark said the latest pledges brought the total amount allocated so far to Ebola recovery to more than $5 billion. Ahead of the conference, the leaders of the affected West African countries had appealed for $3.2 billion to finance their national recovery plans, as well as an additional $4 billion for a regional initiative.
Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told the gathering the money would enable the countries to revive their economies, restore their damaged social fabric and promote regional stability and world trade.
"We can and we must return to the progress of our pre-Ebola trauma," she said, adding that the world had "a great stake in how we together respond to this global threat."
Not out of the woods
The Ebola epidemic began in Guinea in December 2013, and soon spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. Although the outbreak has largely been brought under control, the three countries are still recording around 30 new infections each week. Liberia was declared Ebola-free in May, but suffered a setback after new cases of the virus were discovered last month.
Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma warned the UN conference that the threat from Ebola was still very real, and the risk would remain as long as health systems were crippled.
"The threat is never over until we rebuild the health sector Ebola demolished, until we rebuild the livelihoods in agriculture it compromised, until we shore up government revenues it dried up, and until we breathe life into the private sector it has suffocated," he said.
Among the new pledges were $745 million from the African Development Bank, $495 million from the European Union, $340 million from Britain, $266 million from the United States and $220 million from Germany.
nm/bk (Reuters, AFP, AP)