Development Banks Prepare $260 Million Aid to Fight Ebola

The World Bank and the African Development Bank are preparing as much as $260 million in emergency funding to help Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea contain the spread of Ebola and limit its economic impact.

The World Bank pledged as much as $200 million in response to calls by the three nations and the World Health Organization, it said in an e-mailed statement. Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, said in an interview that the lender plans to provide $50 million to $60 million.

“The three countries and their international partners, led by the World Health Organization, have a plan to contain the Ebola outbreak, but the plan needs resources,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said on a conference call with reporters today.

The hemorrhagic fever has no known cure or vaccine and has killed at least 826 people since March. Outside of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea -- the three hardest-hit countries -- Nigeria today confirmed its second case and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York is testing a person for the Ebola virus who had recently been to West Africa.

“We need now to provide more structured support to strengthen the health systems” of the countries hit, Kaberuka said.

Protecting Workers

The pledges were announced as about 40 African leaders arrive in Washington for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Kim said the bank’s aid, which the board of directors has yet to approve, will first focus on protecting and paying health workers who are exposed to the virus as well as on communication about the epidemic.

“For the longer term, our funding will provide social and fiscal support to mitigate the economic implications of Ebola, and invest in disease surveillance,” said Kim, a physician by training who has served as director of the WHO’s HIV/AIDS department.

In Guinea alone, the Washington-based World Bank sees economic growth slowing to 3.5 percent from a previous forecast of 4.5 percent because of the Ebola impact.

“This is not just a short-term infectious disease outbreak,” Kim said. “This has implications for not only the economy of these three countries, but the economy of the region.”

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