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Top firms urging lifting of ebola travel bans

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Eleven top resource-sector executives urged governments to lift travel bans on Ebola-hit countries Monday, saying they “aggravate” the humanitarian crisis. The CEOs of firms operating in west Africa — including ArcelorMittal’s Lakshmi Mittal and Randgold’s Mark Bristow — praised the international response to the epidemic, but said some measures were doing more harm than good.

“There is a risk the measures being taken to restrict travel to the countries most impacted by the virus will aggravate the growing humanitarian crisis,” they said in a joint statement.

Countries and airlines from South Africa to Britain have restricted travel to Ebola-afflicted countries, including Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“Our companies have made long-term commitments to these countries and their people and we intend to honour that commitment,” said the firms which range from palm oil producers to heavy equipment providers.

“Ebola is without doubt a horrific virus. But it is a virus that with the right understanding, precautions and processes in place should be avoidable and containable.”

The epidemic has killed over 2,000 people in west Africa so far and is having a growing economic impact. Steel giant ArcelorMittal has seen contractors pull out from its expanding iron ore works in Liberia, while elsewhere shipping routes have been disrupted. The African Development Bank estimates the crisis could cut one to 1.5 percent of GDP in affected countries.

“Without the support of the international community the situation for these economies, many of whom are only beginning to return to stability after decades of civil war, will be even more catastrophic,” said the firms.

Their call echoes similar appeals from the African Union and the World Health Organisation. SAPA

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