New Ebola relief could prompt IMF reforms

The observation unit for suspected Ebola patients at the Lungi Government Hospital in Sierra Leone. The International Monetary Fund is preparing another Ebola relief package for the three West African countries hardest hit by the epidemic. Photo by: Jennifer Brooks / CDC Global / CC BY

The International Monetary Fund is preparing another Ebola relief package worth $150 million for Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia — aid that may pave the way for larger reforms to one of the IMF’s disaster relief mechanisms.

IMF staff will present the proposal to the executive board in early January, an IMF representative told Devex; funds will likely become available this quarter.

After providing $130 million in September for Ebola relief, IMF leaders have reportedly been considering ways to relieve the West African countries’ debt burdens. IMF relieved Haiti’s entire outstanding debt after an earthquake and tsunami devastated the Caribbean nation five years ago today. IMF officials discussed the option in November with world leaders at the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia.

“As endorsed by the G-20 leaders in Brisbane, staff are looking at further options to provide support to the Ebola-hit countries,” the IMF spokesperson said. Officials “expect a formal proposal to be presented to the board” in the coming weeks as part of larger proposal to reform IMF’s Post-Catastrophe Debt Relief Trust, which was established in the wake of the Haiti quake.

PCDR support is limited to the most catastrophic of natural disasters. According to the PCDR website, crises should affect at least one-third of the population and have or will likely destroy more than a quarter of a country’s economic capacity.

The proposed reforms follow the IMF’s decision earlier this month to extend its zero-interest rate policy for low-income countries, in hopes of spurring growth in the most impoverished parts of the world.

The IMF’s attention to its disaster relief options comes in the wake of the U.S. administration’s efforts to get legislation passed that would affirm the U.S. Global Development Lab, an office created by Rajiv Shah, the outgoing administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. The lab’s Ebola Grand Challenge, which has been praised by Congress, has been credited with speeding up USAID’s infamously slow procurement to get assistance to Ebola-affected regions swiftly.

What’s your take on efforts to finance Ebola relief? Chime in by leaving a comment below.

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a U.K. Correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.

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