US$375M Needed to Eradicate Ebola

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The Liberian Government has announced that it needs over US$375 million to wipe out the Ebola virus and put in place quality healthcare system across the country. The country’s Acting Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Mr. Amara M. Konneh made the declaration in Monrovia on Monday, September 29 during signing ceremony of a US$11.4 million grant by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to fight the Ebola epidemic in the country. Konneh disclosed that the Liberian government has completed a comprehensive strategy to fight and defeat the deadly Ebola virus.

“We [government] don’t have this money now. As a matter of fact, it is more than half of our national budget, but we have studied and have come to know Ebola [our common enemy] very well and have put in place a comprehensive strategy to deal with it,” he said.

According to the Acting Liberian Finance Minister, of the US$375 million, Liberia has received a predictable funding commitment from its international partners in the tune of about US$110 million. Liberia is worst hit by the Ebola virus which has killed over 3,000 people and infected nearly 6,000 in the West African sub-region.

Minister Konneh, however, noted that with the needed strategy now in place which brings health workers, who have fled hospitals and clinics back to work to cater to the sick, Liberia can now boast of strong weapon to defeat Ebola. “The strategy directly separates Ebola treatment centers from ordinary hospitals which will take care of non-Ebola related sicknesses,” he said.

Minister Konneh thanked the African Development Bank for providing the US$11.4 million grant to the government of Liberia to help with the fight against the deadly Ebola virus.

“This is where we know our true partners. The AfDB, which happens to be our own bank, has come to our aid providing US$11.4 million grant to us to fight Ebola. This money is going to be used to take care of the staffing, purchase equipment and operate our Ebola treatment care centers.”

The Liberian Government is expected to construct about 17 Ebola care centers across the country to beef up existing centers in Foya in Lofa County, Gbarnga, the John F. Kenned (JFK) Center, the ELWA-2 and ELWA-3 centers and the Island Clinic Center. There are plans in the offing to construct new centers at the New Defense Ministry in Congo Town, Monrovia, another in Margibi County, River Gee County and in Ganta, Nimba County.

He also explained that part of the US$11.4 million will be used to construct and support community care centers in communities hardest hit by Ebola, purchase equipment to handle waste at treatment centers and hospitals, and to provide housing and logistics to the African Union (AU) team and other foreign medical teams that have come to help fight the Ebola epidemic.

The AU has already deployed a general to Liberia as part of a 90-man team dispatched recently.  Minister Konneh also thanked the AfDB for reaching a decision to help the affected countries through budget support. 

“The expenditure demand on our government is very high and the economy is declining.” The budgeting support is intended to put the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) back on track.

For her part, AfDB Country Representative, Dr. Margaret Kilo commended the government for putting in place the Ebola Plan which was endorsed by the development partners on Saturday. “I commend the Government for this plan which ensures that investments being made to the fight against Ebola will also result in stronger health systems and decentralized services,” said Dr. Kilo.

The AfDB Representative, who signed the grant agreement on behalf of the Bank, noted that the AfDB is expected to approve an additional US$150 million on October 1, through direct budget support to help the three most EVD-affected countries mitigated the economic impact of the crisis.

“The Bank’s support to the Agenda for Transformation remains. We continue to work on ensuring the roads are built, energy programs are delivered, food security is ensured, and water is provided. And we continue to work with Government on Governance and Capacity Building and these are all of the things that we must do together to ensure Liberia’s socio-economic progress,” she said.

Earlier, Assistant Health Minister for Preventive Services, Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, thanked the AfDB for the grant and said it will go a long way in helping with the fight against Ebola. According to Mr. Nyenswah, who deputized for Liberia’s Health Minister, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, the government has now become to receive the needed international assistance to fight the Ebola virus.

“We are very grateful to our partners for the level of support,” he said. In August, 2014, AfDB president Donald Kaberuka and World Health Organization (WHO) regional director, Dr. Luis G. Sambo visited Liberia during which time the president pledged US$60 million from its regional Public Goods to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea through WHO.

The Liberian government recently signed a contractual agreement with four key UN agencies and tasked them with the responsibilities to implement certain aspects of the fight against the Ebola virus.

Under that agreement, the WHO agreed to support the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other technical services, while UNICEF took the responsibility to procure essential drugs and supplies and provides water supplies to Ebola treatment centers and the World Food Program (WFP) has the task to provide food to quarantined and Ebola-affected population and UNOPS will support the procurement of ambulances.

As a matter of fact, WHO Country Rep. Mr. Peter Graaff also signed the grant agreement suggesting large portion of the US$11.4 million grant by the AfDB will be implemented by UN agencies.

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