The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have pledged $300m in emergency aid for the three most affected countries in west Africa by the rapidly spreading Ebola virus.
“The Ebola outbreak is a severe human, social and economic crisis that requires a resolute response from the international community,” Christine Lagarde, IMF managing director, said in a statement on Thursday.
Jim Yong Kim, World Bank president, warned the outbreak could drain billions of dollars from the west Africa region. “We really need to scale up our response . . . time is of the essence,” he added.
The IMF said it would provide the three countries $127m to “cover a sizeable share of the total financing gap of some $300m estimated over the next 6 to 9 months”. In addition, the IMF said it would discuss more support in October.
The World Bank separately pledged about $200m in emergency assistance and Mr Kim said member countries were ready to provide funds.
The virus has killed 2,500 people and infected 5,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organisation. Nigeria and Senegal have suffered a few cases. The WHO has warned that the number of dead is now likely to double every three weeks.
The IMF said growth in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone would slow as agriculture, mining and services, sectors that are crucial to the economy and employment, are disrupted by the outbreak.
Last week, the IMF said it expected growth in Sierra Leone to reduce from 11.3 per cent to 8 per cent this year. In Liberia, it forecast growth to weaken from 5.9 per cent to 2.5 per cent, and from 3.5 per cent to 2.4 per cent in Guinea.
The IMF and World Bank packages were announced a day after Barack Obama said the world must act fast to fight Ebola and dispatched 3,000 soldiers to west Africa to contain the outbreak.
“It’s spiralling out of control. It is getting worse. It’s spreading faster and exponentially,” the US president said. “We have to act fast.”
The outbreak is focusing attention on how little progress has been made in tackling the disease since it was identified 38 years ago by scientists who analysed a blood sample from a person struck down by a mysterious virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, near the Ebola river.
The haemorrhagic fever has gruesome symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhoea and both internal and external bleeding. Ebola has a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent and there is no cure. The current outbreak, however, has a fatality rate of about half.
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