Ontwikkeling voor het volk

NEW YORK – De Ebola-epidemie in West-Afrika verwoest levens, decimeert gemeenschappen en zorgt ervoor dat kinderen als wezen door het leven moeten, in een tempo dat sinds de meedogenloze burgeroorlogen die ruim tien jaar geleden ten einde kwamen niet meer is gezien. In Liberia is 60% van de markten dicht; in Sierra Leone wordt nog slechts een vijfde van de tienduizend HIV-patiënten die een medicijn tegen retrovirussen nodig hebben daadwerkelijk behandeld; en de regering van Guinee meldt een financieringstekort van $220 mln als gevolg van de crisis. Als de uitbraak niet snel onder controle wordt gebracht, kan het grootste deel van de economische en sociale winst die is geboekt sinds de vrede in Liberia en Sierra Leone is hersteld, en sinds de democratische overgang in Guinee is begonnen, weer ongedaan worden gemaakt.

Alle drie de landen blijven fragiel, verdeeld en – zoals de huidige crisis onderstreept – zeer gevoelig voor schokken. In bredere zin moet deze crisis in de regio tot nadenken stemmen over hoe de wereld de ontwikkeling wil steunen en bespoedigen.

Eén belangrijke reden voor de kwetsbaarheid van deze landen is het consistente gebrek aan investeringen in hun bevolkingen. Dit heeft ervoor gezorgd dat gewone burgers niet profiteren van de voordelen van de economische groei. Hoewel de economieën van Guinee, Liberia en Sierra Leone in de tien jaar vóór de Ebola-uitbraak snel zijn gegroeid – in een gemiddeld jaarlijks tempo van respectievelijk 2,8%, 10% en 8% – hebben de bevolkingen van deze landen weinig verbetering van hun dagelijks leven gezien. Ruim 65% van de directe buitenlandse investeringen is naar de mijn- en bosbouw gegaan, bedrijfstakken die erom bekend staan dat ze weinig werkgelegenheid opleveren en ervoor zorgen dat de rijkdom in de handen van een paar mensen terechtkomt.

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