By Alexandra Sifferlin
September 17, 2014

The economic impact of Ebola could grow eight-fold if the virus continues to spread significantly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the World Bank said Wednesday, with the disease having a potentially “catastrophic” impact on the three West African countries’ already fragile economies.

“The primary cost of this tragic outbreak is in human lives and suffering, which has already been terribly difficult to bear,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim in a statement. “But our findings make clear that the sooner we get an adequate containment response and decrease the level of fear and uncertainty, the faster we can blunt Ebola’s economic impact.”

In its report, the organization said Ebola could have up to an $809 million impact on the three countries’ economies by the end of next year, depending on how the virus is managed. Much of the economic cost of the disease stems from what the World Bank calls “aversion behaviors,” including the tendency for people to drop out of the labor force as they seek refuge fro

To mitigate Ebola’s costs, the World Bank calls for increased foreign aid to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as additional screening for and treatment of the disease.

“External financing is clearly needed in the three core countries, and the impact estimates suggest that containment and mitigation expenditures as high as several billion dollars would be cost-effective if they successfully avert the worse scenario,” the World Bank’s report reads.

Earlier this week, U.S. President Barack Obama announced the U.S. is deploying 3,000 U.S. military forces and over $500 million in defense spending to West Africa to fight the Ebola outbreak.

 

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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