Following alarming evidence of the spread of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the World Bank Group yesterday announced that it will nearly double its financing to $400 million to help the worst-affected countries address the emergency and build stronger health systems for the years ahead.
This represents $170 million in new funding. With the announcement, the Bank will put $230 million toward the emergency response and $170 million for medium- and long-term projects. 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 yesterday 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.
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.