In the last few weeks, the latest Ebola crisis has reached a tipping point. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on July 17, and the World Bank has committed an additional $300 million in resources to the fight against the deadly outbreak.
The latest Ebola crisis, which began in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) one year ago last week, is the 10th grim outbreak the country has faced in the past four decades.
More than 1,600 people have died over the last 12 months. Five years ago, more than 11,000 people died during another West Africa outbreak.
The World Bank has been working with the government and the people of DRC, international partners, and non-governmental organisations to tackle the problem. A central challenge is getting financing to the heroic health workers from the DRC, UN, WHO and other organisations in order to contain and ultimately eradicate the outbreak. They are working in fragile and conflict-affected conditions where there is often a distrust of government and a lack of social cohesion and physical security.
Our additional $300 million in aid is financed largely through IDA, our fund for the poorest countries. It expands the $80 million already disbursed from IDA’s contingency crisis mechanisms.
The funds help support the most immediate requirements: establishing Ebola treatment centres; supporting frontline health workers with hazard pay; setting up handwashing stations; and financing mobile laboratories.
But this outbreak risks escalating and remains a dangerous threat to the people of eastern DRC, and beyond. I see four areas of urgent action that can fight this epidemic effectively.
First, we need to direct money and support where it is needed most: to the health workers and frontline responders. Second, we must go beyond health. One of the lessons from the 2014 Ebola outbreak is that fighting a pandemic is not only about building more hospitals or hiring more doctors and nurses. It is about supporting communities by improving education, fostering behaviour change, broadening social services, and creating jobs. A significant portion of the World Bank’s new funding will, therefore, expand access to social services with the goal of creating 50,000 jobs over the next year through cash-for-work programmes.
Third, resources should get the most value for money. We are supporting the government of the DRC and international partners to ensure that the basic financial systems are in place to assess needs and marshal resources effectively.
Lastly, we need to redouble our efforts to address the underlying sources of fragility and poverty. Disease outbreaks are exacerbated by conditions such as weak institutions and economies; poverty; lack of resources; or an inadequate response.
We remain on the ground in DRC, are committed as a long-term partner, and will keep working in other countries where an Ebola outbreak may strike. The prospects for so many depend on bringing this latest outbreak to a timely end, and it will take an organised, well-financed, multinational effort to succeed.
— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2019
David Malpass is the president of the World Bank Group