Liberia’s Ebola Fight Receives US$52M Grant from WB

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The World Bank Group (WBG) has approved US$52 million for Liberia, the highest among the three West African Countries hardly affected by the Ebola virus disease (EVD).

According to a statement issued Tuesday, September 16, in Washington DC, the United States of America, the Bank approved a grant of US$105 million for the three countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The intent, WBG disclosed, “is to finance Ebola-containment efforts underway and help families and communities cope with the economic impact of the crisis, and rebuild and strengthen essential public health systems in the three worst-affected countries to guard against future disease outbreaks.”

Said effort is part of the US$200 million Ebola emergency mobilization first announced by WBG in early August.     

WBG: “This new Ebola Emergency Response project will mobilize US$52 million for Liberia, the country with the highest number of Ebola infections, US$28 million for Sierra Leone, and US$25 million for Guinea.

“The allocations were calculated according to the World Health Organization’s Roadmap and assessments of the relative severity of the epidemic in each country.”

WBG has pledged more support in furtherance to its immediate response, but said this initial commitment is still “significantly under-resourced for the purposes of curbing the outbreak.”

Making the presentation to the WBG Board of Executive Directors, the Bank President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, a medical doctor trained in treatment of infectious diseases, said the Ebola grant would have a long-term regional development impact. Dr. Kim said it was an important part of a coordinated international response led by the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“The world needs to do much, much more to respond to the Ebola crisis in these three countries. This new World Bank grant, which will arrive soon in the three countries, will have an immediate, positive impact on their collective Ebola containment campaigns. I would like to personally thank our Board of Directors for responding so quickly to this crisis,” President Kim said.

The bank frowned on restricting people’s movements while trying to curb the spread of the disease, adding that said action by governments concerned is leading to food crises in the quarantined and most affected areas where the three countries intersect.

“In the Mano River region, food insecurity is spreading rapidly. More than one million people in the region are facing a food crisis in the coming months. Furthermore, as the crisis continues to evolve, this threat may spread to other areas due to quarantine or other disruptions in movement of goods and people. 

“Up to 40 percent of the new grant, which is financed by the WB’s IDA Crisis Response Window which normally helps poor countries recover from severe natural disasters or economic crises, could be used for retroactive financing of eligible Ebola containment efforts.”

The WBG project will finance the implementation of Outbreak Response Plans while also provide essential health services during the outbreak; help governments secure sufficient numbers of national and international health workers for their outbreak response and the provision of essential health services; and provide essential food and water to quarantined families and communities, and other Ebola-affected households. 

“I cannot praise the dedication and sacrifice enough of the health workers who form the backbone of the Ebola containment efforts in West Africa. This new WBG operation will provide them with the protective clothing and other medical equipment to keep them safe from the Ebola infection and will allow them to focus with more peace of mind on their frontline duty of delivering care and treatment to their patients,” says Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s Vice President for Africa. 

According to Diop, the project will finance among other things, hazard/indemnity pay to health personnel, including volunteers, who work in emergency treatment centers and referral centers, death benefits to families of exposed health workers, recruitment, training, and deployment of expatriate medical doctors, nurses and other medical and paramedical personnel.

There is currently no salary arrears for health workers in Liberia, the Bank said, adding that such initiative will greatly assist; Liberia with an already crippled healthcare delivery system badly needs support in that direction.

“Containing the Ebola epidemic has been hampered by the already fragile health systems in the affected countries. In turn, this is putting recent health gains in the region at serious risk,” said Dr. Timothy Evans, World Bank Group Senior Director for Health, Nutrition, and Population. “To stop this epidemic and prevent future outbreaks, we need to ensure that these countries have the necessary trained health workers, essential supplies, and effective systems in place to respond.”   

During this period, WFP would supersede food package to meet the needs of the affected while expenditure will be supported by other UN agencies involved with the fight.

With many supports coming from partners including the Chinese, United States-based Center for Disease Control (CDC), international charity MSF and WHO, the Liberian government had come under serious criticism locally for doing little in combating the virus.

Amidst these local and international supports, Finance Minister Amara Konneh recently admitted to “wasteful spending by the government,” an assertion locals believed exposes the government to playing “lip service” to the fight.

Despite the many supports, many public health facilities remain nonfunctional while government’s inability to respond to Ebola-related cases across the country remains “very poor,” a local health worker claimed.

Health workers are unprotected even with arrival of the Chinese US$1.2 million in medical supplies.     

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