AfDB and World Bank working together to strengthen Ebola response in Africa

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For countries at risk of Ebola, fighting it comes down to securing more funding for the battle, building up health care infrastructures and ensuring that nations take the lead on keeping citizens safe. That was the message Wednesday at a joint African Development Bank Group (AfDB) and World Bank post-Ebola panel during the AfDB's 50th Annual Meetings in Abidjan. That is where officials from both multilateral development banks (MDBs) and government leaders laid the ground work for how to continue to control Ebola’s spread.

“Right from the beginning we were proactive,” that is why the deadly virus never reached Côte d’Ivoire,” said Raymonde Coffie Goudou, the country’s Minister of Family, Women and Children.

“If we are together in Africa, we are really together,” said Saran Daraba Kaba, Executive Secretary of the Mano River Union, who was one of the panelists. “In the case of Ebola, Senegal was successful because it was warned” by a neighbouring country, she said. That is the kind of partnership that will be effective in beating back the virus.

Kaba and Goudou were joined by Makhtar Diop, Vice-President of the Africa Region for the World Bank; Donald Kaberuka, AfDB President; and Janvier Kpourou Litse, Acting Vice-President of Operations, in charge of Country and Regional Programs and Policy.

While Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire were spared, Ebola did wreak havoc on neighbouring countries, killing more than 11,000 people across West Africa. “Health systems were weak, that’s the main lesson,” said Diop.

Kaberuka and Diop cautioned that strengthening health systems should not mean weakening other infrastructure and education projects. “Should we now drop all those things to fix primary health care alone?” Kaberuka asked the crowd. “My answer to you is absolutely not, absolutely never. What we’re dealing with here is a symptom of a bigger disease, which is called fragility,” he said.

Getting the international community to properly assume responsibility is vital. During the height of the outbreak, Kaberuka said he was appalled by the slow response of some international organizations.

“The World Bank and the AfDB, we are going to do our work and were going to build a rapid alert system in every country,” Kaberuka said.

Even though new cases of Ebola were announced in Guinea recently, panelists agreed that fragile nations are still in a position of power when developing the best way to deal with it. In fact, Diop said some are already setting the pace. “Today in Atlanta medical authorities go to Africa to learn how to respond to Ebola,” he said.

Though the threat of Ebola still looms large, it does not have to, once again, be a massive death sentence.

“Somewhere, we need to strike a balance between both the emergency and long-term response,” said Litse.

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