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$210 million response: AfDB steps up efforts to curb Ebola outbreak in West Africa
The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) on Monday, August 18 in Abidjan, approved a US $60 million grant investment as part of a $210 million package for immediate implementation to help strengthen West Africa’s public health systems in response to the Ebola crisis.
The Bank’s Board, traditionally in recess during the month of August, convened an emergency meeting demonstrating the urgency of the situation and the Bank’s commitment to curb this global public health emergency.
With over 2,000 cases and 1,145 people confirmed dead, this is a wakeup call for the international community that this tragedy could have been prevented if investments were directed towards building stronger health systems. The disease outbreak originated in Guinea in March 2014 and rapidly spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.
“This is one of the most complicated health crises we have ever known. We are not simply dealing with a health problem but with the breakdown of entire health systems in some of the countries in the (West Africa) region,” AfDB President Donald Kaberuka told Executive Directors in Abidjan who participated in the Board meeting through video and telephone link-ups.
This grant is part of a $210 million package which includes $150 million in both loans and grants, along with the $60 million grant, which has been awarded to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) sub-regional Ebola Outbreak Coordinating Center located in Conakry, Guinea, given their extensive experience with global epidemics. The $60 million sum includes four emergency assistance grants of $1 million to each of the four countries affected by Ebola to help them contain the disease.
The $60 million grant is awarded to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) sub-regional Ebola Outbreak Coordinating Center located in Conakry, Guinea, given their extensive experience with global epidemics.
The project will support ongoing efforts to reduce morbidity, mortality from Ebola and help break the chain of transmission of the disease by strengthening sub-regional public health systems. It will support West Africa’s Ebola disease outbreak response plan from August to December 2014.
In the long term (2015-2017) the Bank’s assistance will support overall strengthening of public health systems in West African countries to facilitate early detection and response to potential threats arising from epidemic and pandemic prone diseases. The proposed project critically seeks to respond to the specific needs identified by the expert community in response to this category 3 world emergency epidemic.
Board members commended the speed with which the Bank designed the project. They emphasized the need for close monitoring and follow-up mechanisms for effective implementation.
The Bank’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nelly Iteba, said current figures on the impact of the disease may not adequately capture the scale of the epidemic in the West African region considering the difficulty encountered by health officials in collecting data in such a huge crisis situation. She said the Bank had taken adequate measures to protect its staff and commended the Ivorian Government for the effective measures put in place to protect people from infection.
Against all odds (high fatality rate and no tested vaccine), the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) can be managed with strict adherence to standard infection control practices, basic medical equipment, and necessary medications. For instance, availability of sterilization equipment, intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, antibiotics, ventilators, powerful vasoactive medications can improve patient care and save lives.
Also, skilled health professionals equipped with personal protective equipment can make all the difference in containing the spread of EVD and the availability of modern diagnostic equipment can help health workers with early detection and case management.
“Failure to contain the spread of Ebola is an example of the failure of health systems in Africa, not just the lethal nature of the disease”, said Dr. Agnes Soucat, Director for Human Development at the African Development Bank. “This is why we are investing in mobile technology deployment (m-health) and building human resources for health.”
As such, the AfDB will focus its efforts on strengthening public health systems which include building human resource capacity; epidemic preparedness and response; m-health and strengthening governance and regional institutions.
The AfDB’s project will be coordinated by the WHO sub-regional Ebola Outbreak Coordinating Center, based in Conakry, along with the West African Health Organization (WAHO). A joint memorandum will be signed between the Bank, WHO and WAHO regional organization representing the Governments of Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Mali, Senegal and Gambia for intervention practices and management procedures.
In May, the Bank provided more than US $3 million in response to a call by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to fight Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and neighbouring countries.
The AfDB Board also approved Guinea’s 2012-2016 Country Strategy Paper (CSP) as well as an addendum on the country’s eligibility to benefit from the Bank’s Transition Support Facility Resources provided under the 13th replenishment of the African Development Fund (ADF), the Bank Group’s concessional support window.