IMF unblocks cash as desperate west Africa awaits Ebola aid


Monrovia (AFP) – The International Monetary Fund fast-tracked $130 million (102.5 million euros) in aid to fight the Ebola epidemic after the governments of the worst-hit countries in west Africa said they were desperately counting on promises of global aid to be backed up with cash.

The IMF s executive board said it wanted to help Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone respond to the rapidly spreading outbreak that has killed some 3,000 people since December.

US President Barack Obama said west Africa had been “overwhelmed” by the crisis.

“Public health systems are near collapse,” Obama told a global health summit at the White House.

Ebola cases set to soar, agencies warn
© AFP V. Breschi/A.Bommenel
He warned that the disease was causing economic growth to slow in the region and putting huge strain on governments.

The president called on the world to do more to prevent such epidemics.

“We have got to make sure we never see a tragedy on this scale again,” he said.

Obama this week led calls at the United Nations for faster global action to confront Ebola.

The UN has estimated that nearly one billion dollars will be required to effectively fight the disease and funding has been slow to materialise.

US President Barack Obama speaks about the Ebola epidemic during the UN General Assembly in New York, September 25, 2014
© AFP Saul Loeb
The government of Liberia, the hardest-hit nation with almost 1,700 deaths, welcomed pledges of help from world leaders gathered at the UN but warned it was losing the trust of its own people as the crisis escalated.

“We are happy to hear that the entire world now understands the urgency of the reaction to the threat of Ebola,” Liberian Information Minister Lewis Brown told AFP, speaking before the IMF funding decision.

“We hope that the commitment will be quickly followed by action because, if this drags for long, the populations of the various countries will begin to lose patience and they will blame our governments.”

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde in a statement that the Ebola outbreak has already cost too many lives.

A health worker decontaminates his hands at Island Hospital in Monrovia, where patients are being treated for Ebola, on September 26, 2014
© AFP Pascal Guyot
“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,” she said.

The IMF financing, requested by the three governments, will be made available immediately: Guinea, $41 million; Liberia, $49 million; and Sierra Leone, $40 million.238588_22001389



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