IMF fast-tracks $130m for Ebola fight in West Africa

GMT 23:09 2014 Friday ,26 September

Arab Today, arab today IMF fast-tracks $130m for Ebola fight in West Africa

Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia
Washington - AFP

 The International Monetary Fund fast-tracked $130 million in aid Friday to fight the Ebola epidemic in the worst-hit countries in West Africa.
The IMF executive board strongly approved the financial assistance, "in an expedited decision," to help Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone respond to the rapidly spreading Ebola outbreak that has killed around 3,000 since December, it said in a statement.
The financing, requested by the three governments, will be made available immediately: Guinea, $41 million; Liberia, $49 million; and Sierra Leone, $40 million.
"The Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone has already cost too many lives," said IMF managing director Christine Lagarde in the statement.
"The IMF is working hard with the authorities of the affected countries and their development partners to ensure that the outbreak is quickly brought under control and to assist the economic rebuilding effort that must follow."
The 188-nation IMF said the emergency aid comes in addition to its existing programs in the three already-fragile countries. The new funds are aimed at helping the governments cover part of their immediate financing needs, estimated at $100 million for each country.
Lagarde called on other potential donors to move quickly to help cover the balance of the shortfalls.
"The rapidly deteriorating health situation underscores the urgency of this support," she said.
In addition to the emergency funds, the IMF board approved 25 percent increases of the quotas of the three countries, increasing their ability to access IMF financing.
IMF Africa director Antoinette Sayeh said it was important to get funding to medical aid groups, "but it's also very important to make sure that the shortfalls in the revenue that those governments are confronting are covered by assistance."
So far, that kind of budget support had "not been seen very much," she told AFP.
With the viral epidemic still raging, the IMF said preliminary projections show growth could plunge by at least 3.0-3.5 percent in Liberia and Sierra Leone and by about 1.5 percent in Guinea.
"The Fund is closely monitoring the situation and stands ready to provide further assistance through this challenging period," Lagarde said.
Sayeh said neighboring countries in West Africa were also starting to feel the pinch.
"There's no question that, in some neighboring countries, we're seeing some downturn," Sayeh said, for example "in the tourism sector in Gambia and in Senegal, because of some form of panicking attitude."
World leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York have pledged fresh assistance in battling the growing crisis, which has overwhelmed the health systems in the worst-hit countries.
On Thursday, the World Bank raised its emergency aid in the anti-Ebola campaign by $170 million to $400 million.
The Bank said the fresh financing for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will go toward expanding the health-care workforce and buying needed supplies for care and treatment.


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