World Bank Calls for Emergency Disease Outbreak Fund

Economic IndicatorsDow Jones Newswires

The World Bank Group faulted the pace of the global response to the Ebola outbreak and called for an international fund to distribute money quickly to affected countries.

"The institutional toolbox is empty" when it comes to health emergencies, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Friday at a Washington gathering of global finance officials. "There's no such center of knowledge and skill for response and coordination."

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World Bank officials are looking at several ways of structuring an emergency facility, including setting up a system that would prepackage contingent funding agreements that could be activated when a global health emergency is declared.

Mr. Kim's remarks follow those of President Barack Obama, who in September at a United Nations gathering criticized institutions like the U.N. for not moving fast enough. The U.N.'s health agency, the World Health Organization, has seen sharp budget cuts and has faced criticism from health groups about its Ebola response.

Mr. Kim has welcomed European Union and U.S. airlifts for Ebola medical evacuations that can transport medical personnel from the three West African countries for treatment. He said the earlier lack of aircraft to transport and evacuate medical personnel for treatment has been a "major stumbling block to getting skilled, qualified personnel on site," as doctors and nurses from Western countries are reluctant to go to the Ebola-stricken nations without assurances that they'd be evacuated and taken to advanced medical facilities abroad should they get infected.

The U.S. is the biggest donor nation, having pledged to send nearly 4,000 troops and nearly $400 million in other aid. It is sending 65 U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers to staff an Ebola ward for health-care providers in Liberia. More than 2,600 health volunteers have signed up on a government website for possible deployment with aid organizations.

A number of other nations are also providing funding, food, medical specialists and other aid.

The World Bank is funneling $400 million to Ebola efforts, with $117 million already deployed in the deeply affected countries, according to the development organization's web site. If the virus keeps spreading, Ebola may have a $32.6 billion financial impact in the region over two years, it said.