Photo: Corporal Paul Shaw/MOD

The impact of the Ebola outbreak on West Africa has been devastating for families, communities and public health systems already under severe strain.    At the same time, the economic impact on the three main countries Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea has been crippling, with the World Bank estimating that they will suffer a combined $1.6 billion in economic losses in 2015 due to the ongoing outbreak. Unemployment rates are also expected to remain high, with cross-border traders, private-sector wage earners and the self-employed among the worst hit.  Liberia’s growth forecast for 2015 has been cut in half and projected growth in Sierra Leone and Guinea for 2015 has shrunk to below zero. These countries all had healthy growth rates predicted for 2015 before the epidemic.

Whilst the focus of the response to ebola has inevitably been on putting in place the necessary resources for agencies and medical staff to treat and support those directly affected, the important role business can play is increasinly apparent.  From ensuring investment and financing continues to flow, to making available product and service innovations that overcome logistical challenges and reaching  employees, suppliers and customers with advice on how to stay safe, business can play an important supporting role.

This online discussion will explore how the private sector can best contribute in the wake of a major public health emergency and identify lessons learned for the future.

Key questions for the discussion are:

  • How can business best contribute to tackling public health crisis’ like ebola?
  • What have we learned from the on-going ebola outbreak about how to successfully mobilise a business response, and where are the business innovations happening?
  • How can public-private collaboration enhance the impact of business’s contribution?

 

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We should not just simply "move out of crisis ...

 

 

...to "business-as-usual""!

 

 

 

How can international and local business learn in working with Governments and other humanitarian actors to be better prepared for, respond to global epidemics, natural disasters, and facilitate early recovery in post-disaster/ epidemics' contexts?

According to a recent survey,"operating non-farm household enterprises are seeing revenues well below what they earned before the crisis – a 54 percent drop from the Labor Force Survey conducted in July-August 2014" (The Socio-Economic Impacts by EVD in SL, April 2015; World Bank, IPA, Statistics SL), and most of those affected enterprises are small-scale female entrepreneurs.

How can local business build back better - for any future crisis shock? Collaboration with micro-finance service providers, short-term and targeted cash/ voucher programming and community based micro-finance support sustainable local and national safety nets build community and business resilience (as is envisaged for Sierra Leone) is one essential building block for effective recovery AND preparedness.

Can resource sharing, innovative ways of integrating successful new approaches, skills in the Ebola response be scaled up? World Vision explores how "Safe and Dignified Burial Teams' staff" and skills could help in post-crisis Health System Strengthening

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/3/20/returning-dignity.html

or through targeted vocational skills trainings/ entrepreneurship training - working with Chamber of Commerce entities and others?

 

I was part of an African Diaspora initiative that helped provide hot meals in Ebola treatment centres in Sierra Leone.

Delivering something like that requires resources and those resources mostly went to large NGOs with African diaspora largely ignored. There was battle to acces freight lights to get supplies out as again NGOs were prioritised.

A chance meeting with an MP eventually helped unlock doors to DFID

But things should not be like this and Business could help unlock such bueauracry
Crises such as Ebola do impact business bottom line in the shape of supply and consumer chains and as such business should play an active role. When people are quarantined because of an epidemic business comes to a stand stil and therein lies your link

Yes, it is critical to enhance collaboration, information sharing and access to resources in a coordinated manner. There is need to establish these coordination mechanisms in pre-crisis times and ensure that even at the onset of crisis - longer-term recovery solutions are jointly worked out. It is often easier said than done, but not investing in pre-crisis partnership-building, with an explicit focus of involvement of local business, can result in delays, confusion and negative impact for disaster affected communities.

It is critical to see that basic- and survival-based service delivery is effective - and if for example health workers are on strike as they are not properly equipped nor compensated (pending salaries for weeks or months) - and there is no concertive and quick response by all stakeholders that can stand in the gap - it does have significant cost of life, as see in the Ebola crisis.

Therefore, robust coordination and information sharing mechanisms with all key stakeholders (including community and business voices and contributions!) before disaster strikes - is one of the key learnings.

USAID has just released a call to partnerships for private sector partners in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone to identify new innovations around restoring food production and availability, increasing economic access by supporting food security-related small and medium enterprises to reclaim and grow their businesses and raising the nutritional security of consumers so that they are less vulnerable to shocks or short term food crises. See:http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search-grants.html

Welcome to this online discussion about the how business can help tackling Ebola.  It's great to see a number of you have already started sharing your insights.

We are joined by a great panel, who will help stimulate our thinking.

Can I start by asking each of our panellists to introduce themselves?

Good Afternoon I am Ruth Mhlanga Private Sector Policy Advisor from Oxfam GB

Hello, I am Kathryn Taetzsch, Snr. Relief Coordinator & Private Sector Partnerships Lead, World Vision International

Hi,

This is David Easton. I'm an Investment Director at CDC, the UK government's development finance institution. We invest in businesses across Africa and South Asia from both a commercial and developmental perspective. We've been active in investing in Sierra Leone, including during the current crisis.

Prior to CDC I was Country Director for the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative in Sierra Leone and Liberia and worked closely with the governments of both countries based in Freetown and Monrovia.


Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Welcome to this online discussion about the how business can help tackling Ebola.  It's great to see a number of you have already started sharing your insights.

We are joined by a great panel, who will help stimulate our thinking.

Can I start by asking each of our panellists to introduce themselves?

Hi, I’m Andy Wright from GSK. I lead our portfolio of global health programmes that seek to improve the health of people in developing countries.


Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Welcome to this online discussion about the how business can help tackling Ebola.  It's great to see a number of you have already started sharing your insights.

We are joined by a great panel, who will help stimulate our thinking.

Can I start by asking each of our panellists to introduce themselves?

Hi, Jo Pohl here ... I am Standard Chartered Bank’s CFO for Africa. Sierra Leone is one of our countries, where we have operated for over 120 years and have over 150 staff on the ground, which makes the crisis personal to us.

Let's start with our first question:

Q1: How can business best contribute to tackling public health crisis’ like ebola?

There need to de-stereotype countries coming out from Ebola crises. Even when relevant international agencies have certified a number of countries in West Africa  from Ebola while efforts are being intensified to sort out the remaining countries. Some border agencies/business partners  are still treating healthy people coming from those countries as Ebola carriers and I believe that is psychological killing those people. While this forum is welcome on this initiative of this topic,. I am suggesting strongly that more advocacy work should  be done on this de-stereotyping issue please. I wish all of us wonderful deliberations

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