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W/Bank pledges additional $100 million for foreign health workers

The World Bank Group has announced an additional $100 million funding in its Ebola crisis response to speed up deployment of foreign health workers to the three worst-affected countries in West Africa, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to a press release. The announcement increases the World Bank Group’s funding for the Ebola fight over the last three months in the three countries to more than $500 million.

Recently, West African and global development leaders appealed for a massive coordinated reinforcement of international health teams to the three countries in order to contain the epidemic. The health workers are needed to treat and care for patients, boost local health capacity, manage Ebola treatment centers, and resume essential health services for non-Ebola conditions.

The release said current estimates by the United Nations indicate that about 5,000 international medical, training and support personnel are needed in the three countries over the coming months to respond to the Ebola outbreak, including 700 to 1,000 foreign health workers to treat patients in the Ebola treatment centers.

“The world’s response to the Ebola crisis has increased significantly in recent weeks, but we still have a huge gap in getting enough trained health workers to the areas with the highest infection rates,” said World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim. “We must urgently find ways to break any barriers to the deployment of more health workers. It is our hope that this $100 million can help be a catalyst for a rapid surge of health workers to the communities in dire need.”

The World Bank Group’s additional financing will help set up a coordination hub in close cooperation with the three countries; the World Health Organization (WHO); the United Nations’ main Ebola coordination body in Ghana; and other agencies to recruit, train and deploy qualified foreign health workers.

The hub will be designed and operated in coordination with the Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Ebola and the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), with technical support from the WHO and in close collaboration with other partners. It will resolve key issues blocking the recruitment of significantly more foreign health workers, such as pay and benefits, recruitment and training, safety, transportation, housing, provision of urgent medical care, and/or medical evacuations for any infected staff.

The funding also has strengthened the overall capacity of the three countries toward reaching the 70/70/60 targets established by UNMEER and WHO on October 1, 2014: To isolate and treat 70 percent of suspected Ebola cases in West Africa and safely bury 70 percent of the dead within the next 60 days.   The announcement came at a time of increasing international focus on the need to bring more trained health workers to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

At a special meeting on Ebola called on October 28, 2014, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, African Union Commission Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said her organization would help deploy 2,000 trained health workers from African countries to the affected nations. At the meeting, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Kim welcomed the pledge and said they would do all they could to help. Also Tuesday, Kenyan health leaders told Kim that 600 health workers in the country have volunteered to go to work in the affected nations.

Earlier this month, Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, pledged $100 million to increase the number of foreign health workers, with much of the funding going toward medical evacuation services for foreign health workers if they were to contract Ebola. The European Commission and the United States earlier this month also pledged to support medical evacuation of infected foreign health workers.

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