Huff Post: As the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa shows, the importance of reducing inequality could not be more clear. The battle against the virus is a fight on many fronts — human lives and health foremost among them.
But the fight against Ebola is also a fight against inequality. The knowledge and infrastructure to treat the sick and contain the virus exists in high- and middle-income counties. However, over many years, we have failed to make these things accessible to low-income people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. So now thousands of people in these countries are dying because, in the lottery of birth, they were born in the wrong place.
If we do not stop Ebola now, the infection will continue to spread to other countries and even continents, as we have seen with the first Ebola case in the United States this past week. This pandemic shows the deadly cost of unequal access to basic services and the consequences of our failure to fix this problem.
The virus is spreading out of control in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As a consequence, our ability to boost shared prosperity in West Africa — and potentially the entire continent — may be quickly disappearing.
Under the Bank’s best-case scenario, Ebola will cause the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in economic growth in the affected countries. This is a critically serious matter. These states are emerging from years of civil war and strife, both of which contributed to their low levels of per capita income. Growth is therefore essential to easing the horrible conditions in which millions of their citizens live. If the pandemic continues to jump to other countries, the growth lost could climb into the tens of billions of dollars or higher. So, unless we stop the infection’s spread now, there will be little prosperity to share, to say nothing of the number of people who will be unable to partake in what remains.