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Ebola cuts Sierra Leone growth to three-year low

10 September 2014, 19:00

Freetown - Sierra Leone said Wednesday the Ebola crisis had devastated the economy, with growth projections pared back to single digits for the first time since the country's mining boom started in 2011.

Finance Minister Kaifala Marah told reporters in the capital Freetown that growth had slowed to an annual rate of seven percent since the country registered its first cases in May.

"The Ebola outbreak has reduced the country's economy from a projected 11.3 percent to seven percent as more money is continuously put into the fight," he said.

Marah said growth had been hindered as the Ebola epidemic has forced businesses to close, airlines have started avoiding the country, prices have soared and revenue has dropped.

The tropical virus has claimed almost 2,300 lives since it emerged in southern Guinea at the start of the year, with more than 500 deaths in Sierra Leone.

Read also: World urged to step up efforts in responding to Ebola

"Technically we are in a blockade and we have found ourselves in a critical situation where we will have to keep government running," Marah said.

Sierra Leone, one of the world's poorest countries where half the population lives on less than $1.25 (0.97 euros) a day, is still struggling to recover from a ruinous 11-year civil war that ended in 2002.

But the economy has boomed in recent years, with gross domestic product growth of 15.2 percent in 2012 -- the fastest in sub-Saharan Africa -- driven largely by its rapidly expanding mining sector.

Although poverty is widespread, Sierra Leone has mineral riches including diamonds, gold, bauxite, titanium ore and magnetite iron-ore, which have attracted massive investment.

The World Bank had forecast the economy would expand by 14.1 percent this year, up from 13.3 percent in 2013, before the Ebola epidemic hit.

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