World Bank’s US$52M Grant Ready

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The Liberian government has contracted the services of four key specialized United Nations (UN) agencies under the Ebola Emergency Project (EMP) to provide what it called ‘critical and much needed goods and services’ in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus disease in the country. The World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) have been delegated the responsibilities by the Liberian government to implement a large portion of the World Bank Group’s recent grant of US$52 million to Liberia. 

The money is to be used over the next six months to procure ambulances and other fixed assets, supply relief items to Ebola victims and households hit by the Ebola outbreak and construct additional Ebola treatment units.

Part of the money, which is already deposited in the GOL account in Monrovia, will also be used to assist health workers with the hazards they encounter in their work.

Under the agreement, WHO will support the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other technical services; UNICEF will procure essential drugs and supplies and provide water supplies while WFP will provide food to quarantined and Ebola-affected populations and UNOPS will support the procurement of ambulances.

 Signing for the UN agencies at the 18th Street offices of LIBTELCO Thursday, September 25, was  WHO Country Representative  Peter Graaff, while Liberia’s Acting Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Amara M. Konneh signed on behalf of the government.

 The ceremony was witnessed by Liberia’s Health Minister Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale and his assistant for preventive services Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah and World Bank senior country economist in Liberia Mr. Timothy Bulman.

 Also on hand to witness the signing ceremony were international development partners and members of the government’s National Ebola Taskforce, amongst others.

 In separate remarks, WHO Country Rep., Peter Graaff thanked the World Bank for making the grant money available in so short a period of time. 

He praised the Ministry of Finance team for doing extremely well during the planning and negotiation process of the agreement.

 “I must commend the Minister of Finance for personally directing the team on a daily basis to come up with a package that is reasonable—one that makes the fight against Ebola efficient and accountable,” said Mr. Graaff.

“I think the end results of the challenging  meetings we have had over the last few days are good and doable.”

  Mr. Graaff thanked World Bank president Jim Yong Kim for making the funding available. “I am very pleased and I am now looking forward to moving toward implementation. We will be bringing in supplies that are so badly needed by health workers on the frontlines and we will make sure that our organizations move as fast as they can and be responsive,” he said.

 The WHO Country Rep. clarified that the Ebola Emergency Project has not been outsourced by the government as some people may think.

 “We have been tasked by the government to implement a part of this project, but it is the government that is supervising,” he added.

 Graaff disclosed that UN agencies tasked with the responsibility to implement part of the EMP have already pre-financed purchases of some of the items such as ambulances, food and personnel protective equipment, amongst others.

 For his part, Finance Minister Amara Konneh noted that the grant support to the interventions of the UN agencies tasked by the government was given directly to the government of Liberia by the World Bank.

According to Minister Konneh, these agencies have the technical expertise and the capacity to deliver on time to fight the Ebola.

 He explained that the money will be used to underwrite the cost of running existing Ebola treatment units (ETUs) over the next six months; setting up of new ones; and ensuring that public health personnel and patients have everything they need to fight the disease.

 “Resources from this grant are also directed toward preventing the further spread of the disease through community outreach and awareness, and ensuring that bodies of those who have succumbed to Ebola are disposed of with dignity and respect,” Minister Konneh said.

 He extended the government’s immense gratitude to healthcare professionals across the country for committing themselves to fight Ebola despite all threats to their lives and those of their families, assuring them that  government remains committed to their safety and fair compensation, as demonstrated  by the adequate provision in the EMP for hazard payments to health workers.

The Finance Minister stressed that government is keen to increase access to healthcare for Ebola and non-Ebola patients across Liberia.

 According to him, the US$52 million World Bank grant supports the efforts by increasing the supply of personal protective equipment; and provides for the establishment of ETUs in Fish Town, River Gee County while supporting current operations at John F. Kennedy Referral Hospital, the ELWA 2 Hospital, Island Clinic, the Bong Ebola Treatment Center and the Foya Ebola Treatment Center, amongst others. Part of the grant money will be used to support water and sanitation services.

In his intervention, World Bank senior country economist in Liberia, Timothy Bulman, who delivered remarks on behalf of World Bank Country Director  Inguna Dobraja, said it was an honor for the Bank to be  represented at the signing ceremony, which will facilitate the scaling up of response efforts against the Ebola epidemic in Liberia.

 Mr. Bulman emphasized that Liberia is the highest recipient of US$105 million grant provided by the World Bank to fight Ebola in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

 The World Bank official declared that the Bank’s funds will also support the building of  the human infrastructure of Liberia through the provision of hazard pay, death benefits to families of health workers who died of Ebola, and training of clinical and non-clinical staff. 

He assured the government that the Bank would continue to stand by them during this difficult period of Liberia’s existence—fighting the Ebola epidemic.             

Earlier, Liberia’s Health Minister Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale recalled that it had been very difficult for the government to deal with Ebola from the beginning, due to lack of enough funding.

“The international community has now seen the gravity of the virus and we are now beginning to see some help,” said Dr. Gwenigale.

“The World Bank president himself being a medical doctor,  knows that we cannot fight this Ebola virus without the necessary funding. So we are grateful to the international community for helping us [Liberians] to fight this deadly disease,” the Health Minister added.

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