Getting funds to workers on front line is critical to ending the Ebola outbreak


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In the last few weeks, the latest Ebola crisis has reached a tipping point. The World Health Organization (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 frontlines in the fight against the outbreak.

The current epidemic of this deadly virus, which began in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) one year ago this week, is the 10th grim outbreak the country has faced in the last 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 numbers alone are staggering, with each death representing lives cut short and families mourning loved ones.

In this latest emergency, the World Bank has been working with the government and the people of DRC, international partners, and non-governmental organizations to tackle the problem.

A central challenge is getting financing to the heroic health workers from the DRC, UN, WHO, and other organizations working on the front lines to contain and eradicate the disease.

The fight to contain DRC's Ebola outbreak. Credit: WHO

They are working in fragile and conflict-affected conditions where there is often a distrust of government and a lack of social cohesion and security. Our additional $300 million in aid is financed largely through IDA, our fund for the poorest countries, to help DRC respond to the crisis and return to a more durable development path.

It expands the $80 million already disbursed from IDA’s contingency crisis mechanisms. The funds help support the most immediate requirements: establishing Ebola treatment centers; supporting frontline health workers with hazard pay; setting up handwashing stations to help curtail transmission; and financing mobile laboratories, case-tracking teams to trace the disease, and decontamination teams to ensure that outbreak areas can be made safe again.

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, if done right, fight this epidemic effectively.

First, we need to direct money and support where it is needed most: to the health workers and frontline responders.

We are working to ensure that World Bank funding quickly makes it to the front lines, and we urge other funders to join us and help close funding gaps.

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 behavior 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 programs.

This funding has the triple benefit of bringing critical income to distressed households, improving local infrastructure, and building trust in communities.

Third, resources should get the most value-for-money, including financial accountability. 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 efficiently and effectively.

Lastly, we need to redouble our efforts to address the underlying sources of fragility and poverty.

Disease outbreaks may always occur, but they are exacerbated by conditions such as weak institutions and economies; poverty; lack of resources; or an inadequate response.

We are focused on containing this outbreak and expediting the road to recovery, and we are also working on tackling the enduring development challenges that made parts of the DRC vulnerable to outbreaks in the first place.

The World Bank will continue working with WHO and other organizations to direct resources to the people battling this epidemic and to the communities that need the most support. 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 organized, well-financed, multinational effort to succeed.

This piece was originally published in The Telegraph.

Join the Conversation

Paul Moses Udofia
August 22, 2019

Kindergarten health care may be employed along with the primary, secondary and tertiary health cares in many situations in life including Ebola killing disease outbreak. I am happy, again, with WBG for wholeheartedness tackling of every issue which leads to fragility and poverty in the Globe, like this case of Ebola outbreak in DRC. I am particularly interested in the second act of going beyond health to education, fostering behavior change, broadening social services and creating jobs. Under this section, the people should be educated to tackle the disease headlong not waiting for crises period. By now, they should know conditions that lead to the outbreak and they fight them before they hatch.
I can’t fix it exactly when this took place because quite small, but I can remember vividly how my dad poured kerosene into the then shallow well we had in our compound. It happened when every compound in our rural settings had a shallow well primarily to store off rainwater against flood, and to serve a local water reservoir for days we had no rain. And dangerously too, it served as the main breeding home of mosquitoes, a bucketful of water from this well would have hundreds of mosquito wriggles swimming up and down. Killing one full-grown mosquito is not an easy task, but my dad through this singular action of pouring the kerosene into the well and the oil spread over the surface of the water, many thousands of those mosquito eggs died and floated on top of the water. I doubted if there used to be any survivor. As long as the kerosene covered the water surface no adult mosquito would venture there to lay eggs. So, you can imagine the peace we enjoyed in the nights after every successive crusade. Such ponds are no longer common, even in rural settings, because of the availability of the modern and central drainage systems.
Vaccination against malaria (ongoing research) comes under primary health care, I view the destruction of mosquito eggs long before they hatch as part of the fight against malaria but at a lower level (kindergarten). That is how I came about kindergarten health care. A lot of issues the world is currently suffering, including terrorism, may/can be maimed/quenched at the egg stage. What causes Ebola? A kind of bats? Then, such bats should NOT find any reason to perch where man lives. What helps in spreading Ebola? Health care steps to prevent it from occurring and spread should not be limited to pupils/students/people of the only DRC, but also to other countries which are susceptible to the outbreak.

August 22, 2019

Congratulations Mr Malpass you are doing extraordinary effort to make a world a better place for all. Your work is too demanding and strenuous but we ask our might father to provide more energy for you to fulfill your madate.

Robert Rexford Anim
August 22, 2019

The rapid response remains established after the country was declared Ebola free helped but the sudden stir up is disheartening and we hope the world bank would continuously support the country and more importantly the extended social commitment last such as the creating of jobs to support affected families.

Affected families need to be reinstated and given the power (financial means) to help family members. Early detection and rapid response is very key in the fight against diseases.

Also such intervention should be supervised and ensure that aid is reaching affected, vulnerable and unemployed families.