IKEA Foundation, Bridgestone Commit $7.4 Million for Ebola Response

IKEA Foundation, Bridgestone Commit $7.4 Million for Ebola Response

The IKEA Foundation has announced a donation of €5 million ($6.35 million) and the Bridgestone Group has pledged $1 million in support of efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The largest emergency donation in the IKEA Foundation's history will support ongoing efforts by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, which mobilized to respond to the outbreak in March and currently has two thousand staff on the ground, to contain the virus. "Our wish is that other private-sector partners will step up and fund programs that will not only save lives and fight the spread of Ebola but also help in other emergency situations that get less media coverage," said IKEA Foundation CEO Per Heggenes. "This crisis, like others, will not go away quickly — and for those who have lost loved ones, the pain will last forever. That's why organizations like MSF need long-term support from partners like the IKEA Foundation."

The Bridgestone Group's $1 million pledge includes $500,000 from the Tokyo-based Bridgestone Corporation to UNICEF in support of the UN program's efforts in Liberia and Nigeria, and $500,000 from Bridgestone Americas, Inc. to Samaritan's Purse in support of that organization's work in Liberia, where subsidiary Firestone Liberia has been directly affected by the Ebola crisis.

Late last week, the World Bank announced $170 million in new funding for medium- and long-term projects to strengthen the healthcare systems in  Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone  — funding that will free up $113 million for emergency response efforts in the three countries. To date, the World Bank has committed $230 million for emergency relief efforts and $170 million in longer-term support. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has announced $130 million in emergency financial assistance to the three countries in the form of increased access to its Extended Credit and Rapid Credit facilities.

Even as donor governments, multilateral organizations, foundations, and corporations ramp up their assistance to the region, the New York Times reports that it is likely to be some time before hospitals and clinics in the region are fully staffed. Each one hundred-bed hospital requires a staff of some four hundred, including about forty foreign doctors or nurses, and finding medical professionals who are willing to work in the region has been difficult. Indeed, NGOs such as MSF, the International Medical Corps, and Partners in Health have only recently signed up their hundredth volunteer. Elsewhere, the United States Agency for International Development reports that it has signed up sixteen hundred volunteers, although many of them still need to secure permission from their employers to take six weeks off, be vetted and contracted, and obtain visas and specialized training.

"If we had seventeen hundred staffed beds right now, we could maybe turn the tide," said MSF international president Joanne Liu. "When we hear the pledges, we ask for timelines. Some say eight to ten weeks. They're going to wake up to a much bigger problem at Christmas."