Rebuilding after Ebola will require the world’s help

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THE RAVAGING of populations in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea by the Ebola virus over the past year has been devastating.

The virus killed 10,702 people and left behind vast economic and emotional tolls. The rest of the world responded slowly to the outbreak but eventually rallied. Now it is time to do the same with the aftermath and extend a hand for rebuilding.

The economic impact is “as much a tragedy and disaster as the disease,” President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia told us Thursday. In those early frightening months after the outbreak began, airlines abandoned her country, markets closed, growth stalled and tourism and foreign investment vanished. The story was much the same in the other two nations. Liberia’s economy is slowly recovering, Guinea is stagnating and Sierra Leone is suffering severe recession, according to a World Bank update released April 15. All three face serious vulnerabilities, including decimated government budgets and the need to rebuild employment, education, infrastructure and routine health care.

During visits to Washington this week, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, Guinean President Alpha Condé and Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma appealed to the international community not to forsake them. They asked for debt relief of $3.2 billion and an $8 billion commitment from different sources over several years for a kind of post-Ebola Marshall Plan. The details will have to be hammered out — a donors conference is set for July — but in general we think their appeal makes sense. The World Bank announced Friday it would provide about $650 million in aid over the next 12 to 18 months.