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West Africa’s economic Ebola pain

Thursday, November 06, 2014 - 01:58

Business owners in Sierra Leone say price-hikes are continuing hit the country as the Ebola virus depresses West African economies. As Sonia Legg reports, many see international aid as the only answer.

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There's no escaping Ebola in Sierra Leone. And those attempting to lead some semblance of normal life are finding it almost impossible. Mohamed Kamara is a wholesale trader in Freetown. (SOUNDBITE) (Krio) WHOLESALE TRADER, MOHAMED KAMARA, SAYING: "Right now business is very difficult. Most of our bulk buyers who come from the provinces are not coming to town because their areas have been quarantined and prices are very high." Sierra Leone has seen massive economic growth since civil war ended a decade ago. But a forecast of an 11% rise this year has now been revised down to 8%. Only two airlines are coming into the country and many prices have doubled or even tripled. Alhaji Alpha is President of the Importers' Association. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALHAJI ALPHA TANUE JALLOH, SAYING: "Importations have been grounded to a halt, in fact exportation now is virtually zero. Our mining companies have closed down most of them have gone bankrupt because of this Ebola virus." The World Food Programme is hoping to help 400,000 people in the country over the next three months. And international aid is seen as vital. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALHAJI ALPHA TANUE JALLOH, SAYING: "We don't have what it takes, we don't have the infrastructure, we don't have the know-how, we don't have the funds to fight this disease. If they don't come in soon not only Ebola, but hunger will be the major contributing factor in killing people." 65% of Sierra Leone's six million people make their living from agriculture - it represents 40% of the national economy. Neneh Koroma is a food trader. (SOUNDBITE) (Krio) MERCHANT, NENEH KOROMA, SAYING: "We urge the government to enforce price controls, we are tired of prices going up every day and if we don't sell we don't eat." But the government has a lot on its plate already. A fifth doctor - treating sick patients - died from the virus earlier this week. The health service can't cope - neither it seems can many of Freetown's businesses.

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West Africa’s economic Ebola pain

Thursday, November 06, 2014 - 01:58