World Bank, US step up Ebola response

A delivery of medicines and other essential supplies funded by the World Bank for Ebola-hit Sierra Leone. The financial institution has announced a $105 million grant to contain the disease in West Africa. Photo by: Francis Ato Brown / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

As the Ebola virus continued to ravage West Africa on an unprecedented scale in September, the world’s largest multilateral and bilateral donors heightened their response.

The World Bank announced Sept. 16 a $105 million grant — with additional financing expected to come — to contain the disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as bolster struggling public health systems in those countries to prevent future outbreaks.

The grant, to be managed by a unit of the International Development Association tasked with helping poor countries recover from severe natural disasters or economic crises, is part of the $200 million Ebola emergency mobilization approved in August and will give $52 million for Liberia, the country with the highest number of Ebola infections, $28 million to Sierra Leone and $25 million for Guinea, based on the World Health Organization’s assessment of the relative severity of the epidemic in each country. Up to 40 percent of the money from the new grant can be directed to retroactive financing of eligible Ebola containment efforts in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s vice president for Africa, said the funds will help give hazard pay to health personnel — including volunteers — who work in emergency treatment centers and referral centers, dispense in-country medical care to exposed health workers and death benefits to their families, as well as recruit, train and deploy international medical doctors and nurses.

The grant does not explicitly contemplate paying the salaries of local health workers, but part of the funds can be used for that purpose if their governments “come under financial pressure as a result of the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak.”

Obama: ‘We can’t dawdle on this one’

In addition to those funds committed by the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development also detailed plans Sept. 16 to spend $75 million on supporting the development of Ebola treatment units, as well as provide 50,000 home health care kits to improve treatment and containment of the disease.

The Obama administration also pledged to build a staging base, send 3,000 troops to assist relief efforts on the ground and train up to 500 health workers per week, among other commitments featured in a fact sheet published by the White House. USAID deployed in August a Disaster Assistance Response Team to coordinate the U.S. response to the outbreak while the Department of Defense requested Congress to channel $500 million in funds originally earmarked for overseas contingency operations to the fight against the disease.

After visiting the Centers for Disease Control headquarters in Atlanta on Sept. 16, U.S. President Barack Obama admitted in a speech that the response has been slow, but it’s not too late to wipe out the virus and to assist the affected countries.

“International organizations just have to move faster than they have up until this point. More nations need to contribute experienced personnel, supplies and funding that’s needed, and they need to deliver on what they pledge quickly,” Obama said. “We know that if we take the proper steps, we can save lives. But we have to act fast. We can’t dawdle on this one.”

Other notable donors to the Ebola response in West Africa include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which in September pledged $50 million for containment and relief efforts.

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About the authors

  • Jeff Tyson

    Jeff is a former global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid, and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the U.S., and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.
  • Carlos Santamaria

    Carlos is a former associate editor for breaking news in Devex's Manila-based news team. He joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE ,and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York, and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.