The World Bank Group has announced a pledge of as much as $200 million in emergency funding to help Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone contain the spread of Ebola, help communities cope with the economic impact of the epidemic, and strengthen public health systems in West Africa.
Announced during the U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington, D.C., the pledge will pay for urgently needed medical supplies, salaries for medical staff, and other vital resources needed to stabilize health systems in the region, where nearly nine hundred people have died. The funds also will be used to strengthen disease surveillance and laboratory networks in the region as a way to guard against future outbreaks of the disease. The World Bank is working with the World Health Organization and partners such as the Economic Community of West African States to contain the virus, which was first identified in 1976.
The bank’s response also includes social safety net measures designed to help families and communities struggling to cope with the financial impact of the epidemic. An initial World Bank-International Monetary Fund assessment for Guinea projects a full percentage point drop in GDP, from 4.5 percent to 3.5 percent. The agricultural sector has been affected in all three of the hardest-hit countries, as rural workers have fled farms in affected zones, although there has been no measurable impact to date on the region’s food supply.
"I am very worried that many more lives are at risk unless we can stop this Ebola epidemic in its tracks," said World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, who is a medical doctor with experience in the treatment of infectious diseases. "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."