IMF approves $130 million for Ebola-stricken countries

1411751438000-AP-CUBA-DOCTORS-EBOLA-67552794Responding to the escalating Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the International Monetary Fund today appoved $130 million in emergency financial help for Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three countries hardest hit by the epidemic.

The financing will be available immediately, including $41 million for Guinea, $49 million for Liberia and $40 million for Sierra Leone, the IMF announced. These countries are among the poorest in the world, having recently emerged from years of conflict within or around their borders. The outbreak, which could reach 1.4 million cases by January, already had caused major economic damage, with rising food prices and unemployment.

“The Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone has already cost too many lives,” said IMF managing director Christine Lagarde. “This humanitarian crisis could also have deep economic consequences.”

Preliminary IMF estimates suggest that growth could fall 3% to 3.5% in Liberia and Sierra Leone and by about 1.5% in Guinea in 2014.

“Unless brought under control, the epidemic will reverse the advances that these countries have made in recent years,” Lagarde said. “Large-scale and well-coordinated assistance by the international community is urgently needed.”

According to the World Health Organization, the virus has infected 6,242 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal, and has killed 2,909. A report from the CDC this week estimated that the outbreak could affect as many as 1.4 million peopel by January if it’s not controlled quickly.

The United States is sending 3,000 troops to West Africa to help with the disaster effort, helping to build hospitals and deliver critical supplies. The United Nations announced it will send a medical mission to the region. The World Bank announced Thursday that it will nearly double its assistance in the Ebola fight, to $400 million.

In a statement released Friday, the WHO described the West African Ebola outbreak as “the most severe, acute public health emergency seen in modern times. Never before in recorded history has a biosafety level four pathogen infected so many people so quickly, over such a broad geographic area, for so long.”