By Zakari Usman
The United Kingdom aspires to continue its international leadership in the response to the Ebola outbreak by becoming the first country to pledge to a new IMF trust to relieve debt caused by the virus.
The Chancellor has today announced that the UK will contribute $50m to a new IMF fund to relieve the burden of debt caused by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
The IMF’s new Catastrophe Containment and Relief (CRR) Trust was launched last week. Its first role will be to provide grant aid that will be used for relief on debt service payments to the IMF for the three countries most affected by the ongoing Ebola epidemic: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The countries will be able to access funds to enable them to cover upcoming repayments to the IMF for two years, allowing them to redirect those resources to fighting the outbreak, and repairing their economies and societies.
The Trust expands upon the IMF’s Post Catastrophe Debt Relief (PCDR) Trust that originally was set up around the Haiti earthquake in 2010 to assist countries hit by natural disasters. The new CCR trust will expand the remit of that Trust to also allow countries facing public health emergencies to access the funds to help contain potentially devastating international spillovers.
The IMF will part-fund the new CRR Trust from existing IMF resources, but the IMF’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde has also made clear that it will require additional support from the IMF’s members. The UK’s contribution will ensure immediate support for the Ebola-affected countries, but also the sustainability of the CCR Trust in the future to provide support to countries experiencing natural disasters or public health disasters. The UK today becomes the first country to pledge to the CCR Trust.
This contribution is the latest part of the international leadership that the UK has shown in the response to the Ebola crisis. For Sierra Leone, we have committed 325 million pounds to eradicating the disease, supported more than half of all the beds available for Ebola patients, funded over 100 burial teams, trained 4,000 frontline staff, provided three labs to test one third of all samples collected nationally and delivered over one million PPE suits and 150 vehicles.
There are signs that the infection rate is falling, showing that this strategy is working and providing cautious optimism that we can beat this disease. But we cannot be complacent, and the support that the UK provides through the IMF will be integral to help these countries to continue to contain the virus, support their economic recovery and take the long term steps to guard against such a public health emergency in the future.
George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:
“The UK has been at the forefront of the international response to the Ebola crisis, providing money, equipment and skilled personnel to help care for victims and contain the epidemic. Along with the human tragedy, the virus continues to have a devastating impact on the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. So I am delighted to provide $50 million of critical resources to enable these countries spend less money servicing their debt and more on the public health interventions that will help save lives.”
Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said:
“I’m very proud that the UK is leading the global fight against Ebola, as the first country to contribute to the IMF’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust. On top of the 325 million pounds we’ve already pledged, this additional $50 million will make a huge difference to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, allowing them to rebuild their economies and improve their public health services. This long-term funding will not only help us tackle and defeat Ebola across the globe now, but also help to deal with future pandemics when they occur.”
Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, said:
“I strongly welcome the UK’s pledge to contribute to the Catastrophe Containment Relief Trust. I hope that this commitment, the very first one to this effort, will be an important catalyst for others in helping us reach our funding goals as we strive to provide grants for debt relief to the three countries affected by the Ebola outbreak, and to meet future public health crisis needs.