Isolation by airlines: Sierra Leone’s greatest challenge in Ebola recovery?

As Sierra Leone copes with the setback of a new mortality from Ebola, the country’s finance minister has singled out isolation by international airlines as the biggest obstacle to economic recovery.

“Our biggest challenge is that we have been isolated by the airline industry. We are urging all of them to return, because it is a partnership,” minister Kaifala Marah tells This Is Africa on the side of an OECD Development Centre conference in Paris.

Flight bans were a key issue in the international debate around containing the virus’ spread. The bans were met with criticism from experts at the US-based Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the United Nations. Critics claim these measures slowed humanitarian efforts and quashed business linkages.

International airlines including British Airways, Air France and KLM, as well as regional airlines such as Nigeria-based Asky and Arik Air, all suspended flights to Ebola-affected countries in August 2014. Most have yet to resume full service.

Despite progress eliminating cases of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, the country recorded its first death from the disease in several months on 4 April. While conceding the setback, Mr Marah maintains that the Sierra Leone will adhere to a 6-9 month recovery timetable.

“We are clear about our recovery strategy, and we are receiving support across government and from international partners. All of these supports working together ensure that we can get the recovery process right,” he says.



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