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Africa Cup tournament kick off campaign rallying support to end hunger

INTERNATIONAL – A United Nations-supported video campaign to fight hunger in Africa will feature at the matches throughout the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, which started Saturday, 17 January, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced.

In the video, a footballer dressed in white garb dribbles a ball across an abandoned underground construction site, laser focused, dust stirring up around him as he angles for the winning kick – he takes it and scores – which represents for overcoming hunger in Africa by 2025.

“Eradicating hunger requires teamwork and perseverance – the same qualities that players in the Nations Cup show us on the field,” said José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General.

The campaign, ‘African Football against Hunger,’ is a product of the partnership between FAO and the Confederation of African Football (CAF), and will spotlight the breakthrough commitment by African leaders to end hunger in the next decade.

The initiative leverages the global popularity of “footie” to spread a message of solidarity: African nations can overcome hunger in our lifetime, but they need collective action and popular support to reach their goal.

Of particular significance, Mr. Graziano da Silva stressed, is adequate nutrition to reach one's goals, athletic or otherwise.

Hunger, unlike the invisible opponent in the video, is tangible across the African continent, says FAO. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 223 million people – or one fourth the population there – are undernourished. This hampers their ability to lead healthy, productive lives and holds Africa as a whole back from reaching its full potential.

“Football brings together people from all over the continent and that makes it the ideal platform to call for solidarity,” said Mario Lubetkin, FAO´s Director of Communications, during a press conference in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, on the eve of the opening of the Africa Cup of Nations.

He also added that (it can) “bring people across Africa on board with our joint effort to raise the bar in the fight against hunger.”

Home to seven out of 10 of the planet's fastest growing economies, Africa also has the youngest population in the world. However, regional markets are still dominated by foreign food imports and youth unemployment runs high.

Therefore, investing in agricultural development now could improve inclusive growth that boosts youth employment, strengthens rural livelihoods and meets the food challenges of a growing world population.

In this regard, the FAO-administered Africa Solidarity Trust Fund, also featured in the video, was established in 2013. As the first Africa-for-Africa fund, it has so far leveraged some $40 million from African States (primarily Equatorial Guinea and Angola) for projects that aim to improve agriculture and fight hunger.

The work of FAO and the Fund complement the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), a home-grown, region-wide cooperative effort to boost agricultural productivity that was launched by governments 10 years ago.

Investments in agricultural development, strong social safety nets and rights to access resources are of great importance to ensure a food-secure Africa, according to the UN agency. It also highlights the need to support small-scale farmers, who work more than 60 percent of the agricultural land.

The Africa Cup of Nations takes place in a pivotal year for international development, with the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) coming to an end and the international community finalizing a set of sustainable development targets to succeed them.

Sustainable livelihoods and food security are likely to be cornerstones of the post-2015 development agenda.

“This is the time for governments, institutions and civil society on the continent to come together and double down on efforts to make hunger history,” Mr. Lubetkin underscored.

Sixteen teams will compete in the Africa Cup of Nations from Saturday, 17 January to 8 February in venues across Equatorial Guinea.


UN envoy describes ‘sense of self-confidence’ among those battling Ebola outbreak

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations Special Envoy on Ebola described a growing feeling of confidence among those responding to the outbreak in West Africa, but he warned that there is an absolute need to maintain focus, vigilance and discipline to ensure that the disease is wiped out.

“In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a big shift, a sense of self-confidence a sense that it can be beaten,” David Nabarro said in an interview with theUN News Centre. “[The shift] started in early December in Liberia, with some parts of the country that had been so badly affected beforehand reporting near zero or zero cases; other parts of the country at least beginning to feel better.”

This, Dr. Nabarro said, is a major change from when he took up his position last August. He describes the situation then as 'frightening' and filled with unknowns.

“We were bracing ourselves for some very bad news,” he said. “And there was bad news. September was worse, and October was difficult.”

In September, cases in the region were rising by 150 per day and the daily tally was increasing exponentially, with the outbreak accelerating ahead of the response. Since then, the daily figure for new cases has reduced to about 50 per day, with the number of cases week-by-week gradually reducing.

The Governments of the affected countries have been leading efforst to curb the spread of the virus, supported by the UN Mission for Emergency Ebola Response (UNMEER), operating in an area the size of France.

In recent weeks, Dr. Nabarro said, the response has taken on a much more local feel, shifting from treatment, safe burials and community mobilization to focusing on identifying those most at risk and those who have the disease, isolating them, and tracking down everybody with whom they have had contact.

“The phase that we’re involved in right now is called ‘case finding and contact tracing,’” he said. “It’s like detective work. And that’s where we are right now, with the absolute goal of reaching the point where there is no more Ebola infection in the region, and at the same time where we’re seeing a recovery of the normal aspects of life, like schooling, like healthcare, like agriculture and like markets, all the things that represent normal life coming back.”

That ‘detective work’ is part of what helps drive numbers of new cases down towards zero. Once new cases are emanating only from lists of people cited as having been in contact with someone who has Ebola, progress is being made towards zero cases. If surprises and flare-ups are still occurring, then there is still more to be done.

“In some parts of the region, I’m happy to tell you, that we really do understand the chains of transmission and the contact tracing is very good,” he said. “In other parts, we’re still getting surprises. Flare-ups suddenly occur.”

To maintain the vigilance and rapid response times that are vital to eradicating Ebola, Dr. Nabarro underlined the need for experienced epidemiologists and anthropologists, who together can keep a close watch on the levels of disease and what’s happening in the population to respond to it.

“We need them everywhere. We need hundreds of them,” he said, “because we need to be able to find every single person who has Ebola and keep them under surveillance and get them under treatment if they get sick and when they get sick.”

The experts need the support of supervisors; need the most effective IT for communication; and need transport systems so they can be supplied with everything they need in places without roads or access of any kind. People, materials and money will be vital going forward, and Dr. Nabarro said he would ask Governments and foundations to contribute on his upcoming trip to Europe.

He was also enthusiastic about news of success in efforts to develop a vaccine for Ebola, and stressed that once a viable vaccine is approved, at-risk health workers should be the first immunized.

“In the last few months, hundreds of health workers have got sick with the disease and too many of them have made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “I would like to be sure that the moment the vaccines becomes available, it’ll be the health workers who are most at risk who are protected.”


US urged to scrutinise visa waiver programme following Paris terrorist attack. Sint Maarteners fall under the program

SINT MAARTEN/UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - Last week's terrorist attacks in Paris, France could lead to a further tightening of the US visa waiver programme, used by more than 19 million visitors a year. 

Sint Maarteners and other members of the Kingdom of the Netherlands also fall within the aforementioned programme when traveling to Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and the United States of America for shopping, vacation or visiting friends and family, according to an analysis by Soualiga Newsday.

US Senator Dianne Feinstein this week described the programme as 'the Achilles heel of America' and called for it to come under scrutiny.

She said there was a danger that terrorists could go abroad for training and enter the US via a country from where they wouldn't need to apply for a visa.

Citizens of several countries, including the UK, can enter the US for up to 90 days without visas, although they are required to fill out a visa waiver form online.

"I think there are sleeper cells, not only in France, but certainly in other countries, and, yes, even in our own," said Feinstein, a former chair of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee. "I think we need to take a look at the visa waiver program again, and see what we can do to prevent this kind of thing from happening, because I believe it will happen, if it hasn't already."

The program has been an effective tool in promoting business and leisure travel to the US.

A congressional report said 19.1 million people used the program in 2012, representing 40% of all overseas visitors. (TravelMole)


Remove Unnecessary Roadblocks as Private Sector Greatest Source of Jobs says World Bank President. Global Economic Expansion for 2015 Forecasted to be 3 per cent

INTERNATIONAL – After an economically disappointing 2014, developing countries can expect an uptick in growth in the new year as soft oil prices, a stronger United States economy, and continued low global interest rates help fuel their recovery, according to a new flagship study issued by the World Bank Group.

The biannualGlobal Economic Prospectsreport, released recently, projects a global economic expansion of 3 per cent for 2015, 3.3 per cent for 2016, and 3.2 per cent in 2017 – a boost following last year’s anaemic 2.6 per cent growth.

At the same time, the report adds, developing countries are expected to surge from last year’s 4.4 per cent growth to 4.8 per cent in 2015 and then strengthen to a more robust 5.4 per cent by 2017.

“In this uncertain economic environment, developing countries need to judiciously deploy their resources to support social programs with a laser-like focus on the poor and undertake structural reforms that invest in people,” explained World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in a news releasemarking the report’s launch.

“It’s also critical for countries to remove any unnecessary roadblocks for private sector investment,” Mr. Kim continued. “The private sector is by far the greatest source of jobs and that can lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”

Despite the positive developments, the report paints a largely mixed picture depicting both the growing momentum of economic activity in the United States and the United Kingdom amid healing labour markets and a stuttering recovery in the Eurozone and Japan.

In addition, a number of risks continue to overshadow the potential of full global recovery, particularly weak global trade, possible financial market volatility, the strain low oil prices will place on oil-producing countries, and the risk of prolonged stagnation or deflation in the Eurozone or Japan.

“Worryingly, the stalled recovery in some high-income economies and even some middle-income countries may be a symptom of deeper structural malaise,” cautioned Kaushik Basu, World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President. “As population growth has slowed in many countries, the pool of younger workers is smaller, putting strains on productivity.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Basu added, there are “some silver linings behind the clouds.”

“The lower oil price, which is expected to persist through 2015, is lowering inflation worldwide and is likely to delay interest rate hikes in rich countries. This creates a window of opportunity for oil-importing countries, such as China and India,” he said, noting the World Bank’s expectations for India’s growth to rise to 7 per cent by 2016.

The developing world and large middle-income countries are, in fact, expected to benefit from lower oil prices. In Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey, the fall in oil prices will help lower inflation and reduce current account deficits. Meanwhile, exporting countries, such as Russia, can expect their economies to contract as a result, prompting opportunities for wide-scale structural reforms.

“Lower oil prices will lead to sizeable real income shifts from oil-exporting to oil-importing developing countries,” said Ayhan Kose, Director of Development Prospects at the World Bank.

“For both exporters and importers, low oil prices present an opportunity to undertake reforms that can increase fiscal resources and help broader environmental objectives.”


2015 presents historic opportunity to improve people’s lives, says UN Assembly President

INTERNATIONAL – The next several months will present a historic opportunity to agree on an “inspiring” agenda that will directly improve the lives of people around the world, United Nations General Assembly President Sam Kutesa said on January 14 as he outlined his objectives for 2015.

{SOUALIGA NEWSDAY COMMENT ANALYSIS: Sint Maarten as a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands should also use its influence within the Kingdom where it concerns international issues being dealt with by the UN which will also impact the country as well such as climate change and the war on terrorism.  The global successes by the UN are also successes for country Sint Maarten besides the 193-member assembly which Sint Maarten not a direct member is of.  The many issues covered in this story directly and indirectly impact the welfare and wellbeing country Sint Maarten.}

“As we embark on the critical task of formulating an inclusive and transformative post-2015 development agenda, I call on Member States to approach the negotiations with a positive and constructive spirit,” Mr. Kutesatoldthe 193-Member Assembly on the afternoon of January 14.

During his briefing, he looked back at the world body’s achievements during the last half of 2014, spotlighting, among others: the unprecedented international response to the Ebola crisis, and the historic establishment of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER); the endorsement of the outcome of the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples; and completion of preparatory work for intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda.

Looking ahead, he said the success of the new development agenda will depend on Member States’ ability to match ambitions with adequate means of implementation, he added, emphasizing that it will be critical to ensure coherence between the elaboration of the post-2015 agenda and the preparatory process for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July.

On climate change, Mr. Kutesa said the 20th session of theConference of the Parties (COP 20)to the landmark UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Lima, Peru, last month, laid the groundwork for a universal and meaningful agreement to be finalized in Paris in December this year.

Meanwhile, the upcomingThird World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, scheduled for Japan in March, is expected to result in a post-2015 framework dealing with that issue, with a view to enhancing preparedness and strengthening countermeasures to climate-related disasters.

The devastating Ebola epidemic is another issue of major concern for the General Assembly, Mr. Kutesa said. “Throughout the crisis, the efforts of national governments have been heroic, as have been those of humanitarian staff, nurses, doctors, burial workers and ordinary civilians.”

But, he added: “We must redouble our efforts and remain seized of the crisis as the most affected countries face the devastating, long-term implications of the epidemic.” It is equally important to foster cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations.

Peace and security, which the Assembly President said lies “at the very heart” of the UN’s mission, came under jeopardy in 2014 with the myriad conflicts worldwide serving as stark reminders of the need for peaceful settlement of disputes. To that end, the Arms Trade Treaty’s (ATT) coming into force on 24 December certainly contributed to arms control.

The brutal terrorist attacks carried out by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram; the murders of school children in Pakistan; and the heinous terrorist attacks in Paris, Nigeria and elsewhere have put in sharp focus the rising threat of terrorism and extremism, Mr. Kutesa said.

The UN must re-double its efforts to combat extremism and terrorism in all their forms, he said, emphasizing that there is no justification for such attacks.

On the promotion of equal rights, Mr. Kutesa recalled that the current 69th session of the General Assembly marks the 20th anniversary of theBeijing Conference on Women. This would provide a good opportunity to give even greater focus to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 agenda, he added.

Mr. Kutesa said he also looked forward to the unveiling of thePermanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Tradein March, as part of theInternational Decade for People of African Descent, launched by the Assembly last month.

Also this year, the United Nations will celebrate its 70th anniversary. It is therefore critical to consider reform and ways to strengthen the Organization so that is it better able to meet the world’s increasingly complex challenges. Security Council reform remains a priority. On revitalizing the General Assembly itself, Mr. Kutesa said that the recurring challenges in the completion of the work of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) should be addressed.


Journalism after ‘Charlie’: in Paris, UNESCO hosts day of reflection, free speech debate

INTERNATIONAL – In the wake of last week’s attack against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the United Nations agency mandated to protect free expression hosted at its Paris headquarters a day of reflection and held a wide-ranging debate on press freedom on January 14.

“The attack againstCharlie Hebdowas an attack against freedom of expression, a pillar of this shared vision, whose flag bearers are journalists,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as she opened the proceedings.

Participating in theeventwere members of French and international media, UNESCO Member States, opinion-makers and journalism schools. The programme was opened by Ms. Bokova and leading French cartoonist Plantu.

This event follows last week’s deadly terrorist assault on the editorial staff atCharlie Hebdo, and the subsequent hostage siege at a kosher supermarket in Paris. Seventeen people were killed in those attacks.

In her remarks, Ms. Bokova expressed alarm at the deliberate attack on journalists.

“The numbers are staggering. Every seven days, one journalist is killed for doing his or her job. Nine of ten cases go unpunished. This is simply unacceptable,” the Director-General said.

“As the United Nations agency mandated to protect freedom of expression and press freedom, UNESCO stands up every time a journalist is killed and we call for effective justice,” she said.

Today’s event included two roundtable discussions with media companies on the safety of journalists, and on the vital role played by media in nurturing public debate, promoting dialogue and building bridges.

The first discussion featured several media officials, including Swedish journalist Magnus Falkhed, Janine Di Giovani, Middle East Editor ofNewsweek, Georges Malbrunot from the French dailyLe Figaro, John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International, Omar Belhouchet, a journalist withEl Watanand Ernest Sagaga, head of Human Rights and Safety at the International Federation of Journalists.

The second round table on “Intercultural Dialogue and Fragmented Societies” examined ways to advance respect for diversity and freedom of expression and how to build mutual understanding and tolerance across different media.

Participating in that dialogue was President of the French Constitutional Council Robert Badinter, Chief Rabbi of France Haim Korsia, the Rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris Dalil Boubakeur, and Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun.


Making Cities Resilient – My City is Getting Ready

INTERNATIONAL – Eight cities in Central Asia and the Caucasus, including capitals Tbilisi and Bishkek, have signed on to strengthen community resilience by integrating disaster risk reduction into their national and local policy, representing a big boost for the United Nations initiative which already has over 2,400 participants worldwide.

The global campaign,Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready!, launched in 2010 for a period of five years until 2015, is promoted by the Geneva-based UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

“The campaign helps participants to become better organized and to identify key priorities for action for risk reduction. They can also benefit from the shared experience of other participants facing similar challenges. It is a very dynamic and interactive campaign,”saidMadhavi Malalgoda Ariyabandu, UNISDR regional coordinator.

UNISDR’s initiative, now in partnership with the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), is titled “Strengthened Disaster Risk Reduction in Central Asia and the Caucasus through greater fostering of the Hyogo Framework for Action priorities.”

The eight cities to sign up are Noyemberyan and Berd in Armenia; Tbilisi and Gori in Georgia; Oskemen and Ridder in Kazakhstan; and Bishkek and Kara-Kol in Kyrgyzstan.

“These cities and towns are committing to a ten-point checklist of actions which help them to become resilient to disasters and to manage their growth in a sustainable way,” said Ms. Ariyabandu.

The worldwide campaign is based on10 essentialsfor developing local resilience, which in turn build on the five priorities for action of theHyogo Framework for Action(HFA), endorsed by UN Member States for the period 2005-2015.

Central Asia and the Caucasus are exposed to a range of natural and technological hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, mud and debris flows, avalanches, floods, drought and extreme temperatures inflicting serious human and economic losses. Risks and exposure to risk are exacerbated by the rapid growth of urban population and climate change.

Over the 30-year period from 1980, 14 million people were affected by 131 major disaster events with economic losses of $3.8 billion. The destructive earthquake in Spitak, Armenia in 1988 and the extreme cold spell across Central Asia in 2008, prove the importance of strengthening communities.

To address these challenges, the campaign will aim to build local capacity to assess risks of natural hazards, update action plans which are disaster risk inclusive, increase accessibility of international expertise in disaster risk reduction, and foster exchange of experiences between municipalities and local governments.

A post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction is expected to be approved at aworld conference, in March 2015, in Sendai, Japan, emphasizing the need to continue to work to strengthen community resilience, particularly in municipalities with less than 10,000 inhabitants.


Five years on, Haiti’s earthquake victims honoured, looks ahead to brighter future

HAITI/SINT MAARTEN - Marking the anniversary of the massive earthquake that struck Haiti five years ago on Monday, January 12, 2015,Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon has paid tribute to the more than 200,000 victims, including 102 United Nations personnel, who perished, and declared that in sorrow, there is the promise of hope that the progress achieved by the Haitian people in the wake of the tragic event could be built upon.

“I vividly recall the devastation and suffering I witnessed during my visits to Haiti in the aftermath of the catastrophe. The sense of grief remains fresh in our minds,saidthe Secretary-General in a message on the sombre occasion.

“Today, we honour the memories of the daughters and sons, fathers and mothers, friends and loved ones who lost their lives. We also pay homage to those who survived and whose resilience and commitment are a source of inspiration to the world,” he said.

Mr. Ban recalled that last week, he had the honour of unveiling a memorial for UN colleagues who died on that terrible day. “Today, I ask that we join together to celebrate their lives and contributions to Haiti and its people. We remain eternally grateful for their sacrifices.”

Yet the Secretary-General pointed out that in sorrow, there is the promise of hope. Last year, he returned to Haiti and had seen the progress that has been achieved. He commended the Haitian people for their perseverance and urged the international community to continue its invaluable support for the benefit and future of all Haitians.

“Haiti's recovery has not been easy. There have been – and continue to be – setbacks along the way, and there is much work still to be done to ensure political and institutional stability, democratic governance and sustainable development,” said the UN chief.

“However, let today be a day of remembrance and one of hope for a stable and prosperous Haiti. Together, let us strive towards a bright future for Haiti,” he concluded.

In an interview withUN Radio, General Jose Luiz Jaborandy, Jr., Force Commander of the UN Stabilization Mission in the country (MINUSTAH), said that throughout its 11 year history, the Mission had always stood with the people and Government of Haiti. In 2010, he said, both the country and MINUSTAH had suffered a great tragedy, and today was a day to celebrate their sacrifice in the name of peace.

“So, we are here, with the people and to [support] the national authorities to regain the path to the future; looking forward in a positive way, for the benefit of the Haitian people,” he said.

On the political situation, General Jaborandy expressed hope that the national authorities would show willingness to build a consensus to overcome the current impasse and to begin working had to provide the stability and resources that the Haitian people need for the future.


INTERPOL issues Red Notices for former Ukrainian leaders

SINT MAARTEN/LYON, France – At the request of Ukrainian authorities Red Notices, or international wanted persons alerts, have been issued for four individuals including former President Victor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

The Red Notices, for charges including embezzlement and misappropriation, were issued on Monday 12 January 2015 following a thorough review by INTERPOL’s Office of Legal Affairs to ensure that Ukraine’s request for the notices was in compliance with the Organization’s rules and regulations.

Two other Red Notices linked to the case have also been issued for former Minister of Finance Iiuri Kolobov and Georgii Dzekon.

These Red Notices are not connected to a previous request made by Ukraine in March 2014 for a Red Notice to be issued for Victor Yanukovych on charges including abuse of power and murder. This request was assessed by INTERPOL as not compliant with the Organization’s rules and regulations and was refused.

A Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant and INTERPOL cannot compel any member country to arrest the subject of a Red Notice.

Red Notices are one of the ways in which INTERPOL informs its member countries that an arrest warrant has been issued for an individual by a judicial authority. A Red Notice seeks the location and arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition or similar lawful action.

Sint Maarten is a member of INTERPOL since October 31, 2011, and has a National Central Bureau – INTERPOL Philipsburg.  INTERPOL has 190 member countries.

The individuals concerned are wanted by national jurisdictions (or International Criminal Tribunals, where appropriate) and INTERPOL’s role is to assist national police forces in identifying or locating those individuals with a view to their arrest and extradition.

Red Notices are only issued to INTERPOL member countries if the requesting National Central Bureau has provided all the information required by the General Secretariat.

Any request by a member country for INTERPOL to issue a Red Notice is subject to the Organization’s rules and regulations. This includes Article 3 of INTERPOL’s Constitution, according to which it is ‘strictly forbidden for the organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.’ This prohibition is taken extremely seriously by INTERPOL.

Many of INTERPOL’s member countries however, consider a Red Notice a valid request for provisional arrest, especially if they are linked to the requesting country via a bilateral extradition treaty.

INTERPOL’s General Secretariat does not send officers to arrest individuals who are the subject of a Red Notice. Only the national authorities of the INTERPOL member country where the individual is located have the legal authority to arrest.

In cases where arrests are made based on a Red Notice, these are made by national police officials in INTERPOL member countries.


World Bank says Ebola puts future prosperity of Liberia, Sierra Leone ‘at high risk’

INTERNATIONAL – Job losses and food insecurity are among the far-reaching and persistent socio-economic impacts of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the results of two new World Bank Group surveys released on Monday, January 12.

“[Ebola’s] socio-economic side effects put the current and future prosperity of households in Liberia and Sierra Leone at high risk,”saidAna Revenga, Senior Director for Poverty at the World Bank Group. “We must pay careful attention to those who are most vulnerable to both health and economic shocks, and ensure that they are supported throughout and after the crisis.”

The Liberian economy continues to shed jobs faster than they are replaced, with nearly half of household heads still out of work despite response-related jobs becoming available in construction and health fields. Most job losses are among private sector wage workers in urban areas, with women reported to be particularly vulnerable to the stagnant labour market, as they are disproportionately employed in non-farm self-employment.

In Sierra Leone, the first round of data collection found wage and non-farm self-employed workers seeing the largest declines in urban employment, with Ebola cited as the main cause. An estimated 179,000 people had stopped working outside of the agriculture sector. Most job losses were attributed to preventive efforts to limit the disease’s spread and to the general economic disruption caused by the outbreak, with quarantined and non-quarantined districts describing similar impacts.

The two reports found food insecurity persisting in both countries, with two-thirds of Liberian households reporting a lack of money to afford rice, regardless of price, three quarters indicating they worried about having enough to eat, and 80 per cent citing lack of money rather than availability or high prices.

No evidence was found on Ebola’s direct negative impacts on agriculture in Sierra Leone but harvest activities there were ongoing and future surveys are planned which will track any Ebola-related effects if and when they arise.

Over 80 per cent of those responding to the mobile phone survey in Liberia reported reduced harvests compared to last year, with the main concern the inability to organize work teams given Ebola fears. The same issue was cited as the main reason for incomplete harvests.

The survey showed some evidence of reduced use of health services for non-Ebola conditions in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, with a much lower proportion of women reporting for post-natal clinic visits there compared to 2013. Elsewhere in the country there was little evidence of such a decline.

“From a poverty perspective, we are particularly concerned about households being forced into coping strategies that may harm their long term prospects to improve welfare, and now we can follow this in almost real time,” said Kristen Himelein, the World Bank Group’s poverty economist for Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“These high frequency surveys have been enormously helpful in bridging the gap between country-level growth analysis and the observations from those on the ground as part of the response,” she added.

The surveys are part of the World Bank’s $1 billion outbreak response and complement previous analysis that pointed to a possible $32.6 billion regional economic impact, which could catastrophic for these already fragile States. The surveys will continue in both countries, monitoring Ebola’s effects on economies and households and aiming to help Governments tackle the most pressing economic issues and plan the recovery.

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