- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- D.R. Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Saturday, January 30, 2016
Where did the aid go?
Although Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and the Congo were all affected by the ebola epidemic , the real devastation occurred in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Medical facilities were overwhelmed at an alarming rate, already-lean government purses were stretched to the limits, the courage of health workers was tested to the brim, and normal life was ruined. In Liberia, the outbreak left half the heads of households out of work, while women - who account for more workers in the non-agricultural, self-employed sectors - were among the hardest-hit. So the aid money started coming in. By July 2015, the United Nations announced that donors had promised $5.2bn, which far outweighed the $3.2bn the three countries said they needed to "return to the progress of their pre-Ebola trauma".
President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, speaking on behalf of the three Ebola-hit countries, said: "Humanity sometimes displays short attention spans and wants to move to other issues because the threat from Ebola seems over … The threat is never over until we rebuild the health sector Ebola demolished, until we rebuild the livelihoods it compromised."
The much-vaunted "rebuilding of livelihoods ruined by Ebola" is far from happening. The Liberian government, whose task force destroyed the belongings of Ebola patients, was providing no help as survivors struggled daily for decent food, housing and employment. As Josephine Karwah, one of only three pregnant women to survive the virus, told me, the government left survivors "in a limbo".
Liberia's anti-corruption watchdog audited only a fraction ($15m) of the funding, and found that $800,000, most of which passed through the defence ministry, could not be accounted for. Specific instances of corruption included the disbursement of $600,000 for fuel, feeding, daily subsistence allowance, communication, medical and training, tentage repair, repair and maintenance, without supporting documents; and the payment of $10,000 to 68 officers in 10 counties who could not be physically seen or whose names could not be traced in the daily attendance records.
In neighbouring Sierra Leone the report of the Audit Service of Sierra Leone unearthed a series of financial irregularities, most notably payments to thousands of fictitious health workers, and expenses running into several hundreds of thousands dollars without supporting documentation.
The Ebola Fund Watch report in November 2015 reveals that although Guinea had received donation worth $330m as of November 4, 2015, there is not one audit report on the use of the fund. The "reports of mismanagement" suggested in this report are given credence by the former prime minister Cellou Dalien Diallo's description of Guinea as a country where "contracts aren't signed and investments aren't made".
In all three countries, no individual has been tried, much less convicted, for their role in the mismanagement of money meant to save the lives of the dying.