Ebola: World Bank joins effort to fight epidemic in West Africa

Ebola patient being attended to during the last outbreak

WHO has established an Ebola response centre in Conakry, Guinea.

With the spread of the dreaded Ebola virus assuming epidemic proportions in the West African sub-region, the World Bank Group on Tuesday announced that it would join the global effort to fight further spread of the disease.

With the latest death toll in West Africa now at about 887, the World Bank has pledged to mobilise as much as $200 million (about N3.2 billion) in emergency funding to help three countries in the region with the worse prevalence of the deadly scourge.

The Group in a statement in Abuja named the three countries to benefit from the funding support to include Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

The new financial pledge, which is coming on the first day of the ongoing US-Africa Summit in Washington D.C., would help pay for urgently needed medical supplies, salaries for medical staff, and other vital materials to stabilize the health system, while also
helping communities cope with financial hardship caused by the epidemic.

The package would also help to build up the region’s disease surveillance and laboratory networks to guard against future epidemic outbreaks.

Besides, the funding would also help the three countries contain the spread of Ebola infections by assisting their communities cope with the economic impact of the health crisis, and improve public health systems throughout the West African sub-region.

The World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim, who is a medical doctor experienced in the treatment of infectious diseases, said the new financing commitment was in response to a call from both the three African countries hardest-hit by Ebola scourge and the World Health Organization, WHO, for immediate assistance to contain the outbreak of the epidemic.

Mr. Kim said the Group would also step up social safety net assistance for affected communities and families and help to build public health systems in West Africa to generally strengthen the region’s disease control capacity.

The President said he would brief the Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors as soon as possible on the latest state of the epidemic and seek their approval for the new emergency package.

He expressed deep worry for the huge number of lives lost so far to the disease as well as several others at risk, pointing out that unless the concerted effort to stop the spread of the epidemic was sustained the people would be in danger.

“I have been monitoring its deadly impact around the clock and am deeply saddened at how it has ravaged health workers, families and communities, disrupted normal life, and has led to a breakdown of already weak health systems in the three countries,” the World Bank President said.

He emphasized the need for the international community to act fast to contain and stop this Ebola outbreak, expressing the belief that the new World Bank emergency funding would provide critically needed support for the response to stop the further transmission of Ebola virus within Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and prevent new infections in neighbouring countries that are at risk.

The World Bank President said the WHO leadership was vital to international and regional efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic in West Africa’s first-ever outbreak of Ebola virus disease, which has become the largest ever in the nearly four-decade history of this disease.

He said the Group would work in close coordination with the WHO and other development partners, such as the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS.

To facilitate effective coordination of the campaign, he said, the WHO has now set up an Ebola response centre in Conakry. Guinea.

“WHO welcomes this support from the World Bank, which comes at a time when concern about the Ebola virus disease is escalating,” its Director General, Margaret Chan, said in Geneva.

“The demands created by this unprecedented outbreak outstrip the capacity of affected countries in West Africa to respond. So funding
to increase national response capacities is a fundamentally important
way to slow transmission and prevent spread to other areas,” Mrs. Chan
stated.

With the Ebola virus now directly and indirectly impacting economies
in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and neighbouring countries, the World
Bank said the new emergency response would also help countries and
communities cope with financial hardship caused by the outbreak.

The World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, said the
Group’s latest emergency response would also include social safety net
measures to help families and communities trying to cope with
financial loss as a result of the outbreak.
An initial World Bank-IMF assessment for Guinea projects a full
percentage point fall in gross domestic product, GDP growth from 4.5
per cent to 3.5 per cent.

Agriculture has also been affected in all three countries as rural workers have fled farming areas in the affected zones. To date, there has been no measurable impact on the food supply.

Cross-border commerce has slowed considerably with land crossings closed to neighbouring countries and more recently cancellation of flights between member states of the ECOWAS region.

For instance, following the death last week of a victim, Patrick Sawyer, who was said to have visited Lagos from Liberia, Ghana has since closed its airspace to flights from Nigeria.

A similar action was being taken against Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, with noticeably fewer international flights to these countries.

The result has been lower revenues and financial inflows. Also, many projects involving expatriate workers or business travellers have been scaled down drastically.

The World Bank has warned that if the evacuation of skilled expatriate staff continues in the mining sector in natural resource rich countries, there would likely be a significant decline in production.

For instance, in Liberia, public schools have been shut-down as part of the government-declared state of emergency.


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