UNITED NATIONS (AP) — International donors pledged $3.4 billion Friday to help Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone recover from the Ebola epidemic which has killed over 11,000 people and devastated the three West African nations. The amount is more than the $3.2 billion their presidents sought.
At the end of a high-level meeting, U.N. development chief Helen Clark announced that the new pledges, together with previously announced pledges of around $1.8 billion, will give the hard-hit Ebola nations about $5.2 billion to rebuild, which will be "incredibly helpful."
Clark said the tally was preliminary and stressed that the U.N. will follow up to ensure that the money is actually delivered, which isn't always the case.
Among the major new pledges were $745 million from the African Development Bank, $495 million from the European Union, $360 million from the Islamic Development Bank, $340 million from Britain and $266 million from the United States.
Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, speaking on behalf of the three countries, said another $4 billion will be needed to finance a regional recovery plan.
Sirleaf said the international support will enable the countries to revive their economies, restore their damaged social fabric and promote regional stability and world trade.
"The world as a whole has a great stake in how we together respond to this global threat," she said, adding that "virus diseases, just like terrorism, know no national boundaries."
Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma said making the national plans work "has the urgency of a life and death situation for over 20 million people in our countries."
Dr. David Nabarro, the U.N. special envoy on Ebola, told the meeting that "the end of the outbreak is tantalizingly in sight," with about 30 new infections a week in the three countries and intense detective work under way to trace the chains of transmission.
He told reporters Thursday that there are fewer than six transmission chains in each country, far less than two months ago.
But he said the virus is surviving in some people longer than the 21 days of quarantine — including for months in the prostate gland, the eye and fetus — which makes keeping track of those who have been exposed critical.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, speaking as chair of the African Union, said the meeting was "a clarion call to the international collective to up-scale its preparedness and capacity to handle and manage disasters, particularly health epidemics."
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, speaking by videoconference, pledged to create "a pandemic response team" to respond to pandemics in every country.