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The World Bank and the Ebola Outbreak

Flickr: UNIFCEF Guinea

Don’t think for a minute that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the latest chapter of a health epidemic characteristic of something that happens in developing countries. It could happen anywhere. The difference? Those from developed countries have greater access to public health infrastructure when things go wrong. This has been highlighted by the return of Nancy Writebol, an American working with a Christian mission group in Liberia. She was fortunate enough to board a specially equipped air ambulance, and has access to Emory University Hospital which has extensive isolation capabilities. So for those 1323 people with confirmed or suspected cases they don’t all have the same access to such advanced health care. And with a mortality rate of 60-70%, the need for drastic help is obvious.

The President of the World Bank, Dr Jim Kim, however, knows about the need to improve such infrastructure. He himself is an infectious disease doctor. That’s why he saw the need to mobilize resources to help fight the epidemic. Announced last night, $200 million will go towards countries to help contain the spread of the virus, help the communities involved, and improve public health services.

Together with the US $100 million Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Response Plan by the World Health Organization, this funding will hopefully contain the spread of the virus. But West Africa is by no means out of the woods yet, with 163 new cases between 31 July and 01 August, more needs to be done to contain the virus.

Nancy Writebol’s return to the United States has reminded us that epidemics are not something that only exist in developing parts of the world. With the ease of global travel, the spread of contagious diseases between continents is increasingly likely.

Watch this space to find out more about the Ebola outbreak.


Will Cuming