Following alarming evidence of the spread of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the World Bank Group has announced that it will nearly double its financing to US$400 million to help the worst-affected countries address the emergency and build stronger health systems for the years ahead.
This represents US$170 million in new funding. With Thursday, September 25th announcement, the Bank will put US$230 million toward the emergency response and US$170 million for medium- and long-term projects.
According to a World Bank statement issued, the new resources – which the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors will consider in the coming weeks – will be targeted at rapidly increasing the health care workforce and purchasing needed supplies in order to bring care and treatment to all parts of the affected countries. The funding also is aimed at building a stronger health care system because it will aim to train cadres of health workers to bolster care at a community level throughout the affected region.
“The global community is now responding with the urgency and the scale needed to begin to turn back this unprecedented Ebola crisis,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, who was speaking today at a special session on the Ebola crisis at the United Nations. “The real challenge now is to bring care and treatment to the most remote areas as well as the cities and then to build a stronger health care system. This funding will help the countries start a massive scale up of training of community health workers and bring needed supplies and equipment.”
The World Bank Group previously announced that it was mobilizing US$230 million for the three countries hardest hit by the crisis—Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone—including a US$117 million emergency response.
This support – coordinated closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations, the United States, and other international and country partners – has assisted countries in treating the sick, cope with the economic impact, and improve their public health systems.
The additional planned support will make US$113 million that had been earmarked in the earlier package for longer-term help immediately available for the emergency response.
The new package will have US$170 million set aside in medium- to longer-term assistance for the countries’ health systems.
More people have died in the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa than in all previous Ebola outbreaks combined since the virus was first discovered in 1976. A World Bank analysis, released last week, found that if the virus continues to surge in the three worst-affected countries, its economic impact could deal a potentially catastrophic blow to these already fragile states.
However, the analysis also found that economic costs can be limited if swift national and international responses succeed in containing the epidemic and mitigating fear resulting from people’s concerns about contagion, which is fueling the economic impact.
“This is a humanitarian catastrophe, first and foremost,” Kim said. “But the economic ramifications are very broad and could be long lasting. Our assessment shows a much more severe economic impact on affected countries than was previously estimated. We have been greatly encouraged by the major increase in assistance given by the international community, but now all of us have to deliver on the ground to match the scale of the crisis. ”
The bulk of the emergency financing provided to date—us$105 million in grants out of the US$117 million package—was approved by the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors on September 16, 2014, and is new money provided in grants from our IDA Crisis Response Window.
The other US$12 million in the emergency financing was reallocated at the end of August 2014 from existing health projects in Liberia and Sierra Leone (US$6 million per country) to make some funds immediately available. As of Thursday morning the Bank had already transferred 80 percent of the US$117 million package to the three Governments and UN agencies with the remainder of funds to be disbursed by the end of the week.
These funds are being used to pay for essential supplies and drugs, personal protective equipment and infection prevention control materials, health workers training, hazard pay and death benefits to Ebola health workers and volunteers, contact tracing, vehicles, data management equipment and door-to-door public health education outreach. The Bank has been supporting country responses in line with the WHO Roadmap.
“We can—we must—all move more swiftly to contain the spread of Ebola and help these countries and their people. Too many lives have been lost already, and the fate of thousands of others depends upon a response that can contain and then stop this epidemic,” said Kim.
A World Bank Group analysis of the Ebola epidemic released last week warned that if the virus continues to surge in the three worst-affected countries – Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone – its economic impact could grow eight-fold. However, the analysis found that economic costs can be limited if swift national and international responses succeed in containing the epidemic and mitigating “aversion behavior” – a fear factor resulting from peoples’ concerns about contagion, which is fueling the economic impact.