In a press release issued today February 5, 2015, the IMF said, “subject to Board approval of requests from the individual countries, it is expected that the Catastrophe Containment and Relief (CCR) trust would provide grants-for-debt relief of close to $100 million for the three countries affected by Ebola in West Africa –Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.”
The Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust was a new fund approved by the IMF Board to provide exceptional support to countries confronting major natural disasters, including life-threatening, fast-spreading epidemics but also other types of catastrophic disasters, such as massive earthquakes. For eligible countries confronting epidemics that meet specified criteria, the IMF would use CCR trust fund resources to provide grants as a supplement to its conventional loan support. The grants would be used to pay off future debt service payments, thus reducing the country’s debt burden and freeing up resources to tackle relief and recovery challenges, the IMF said.
It noted that these funds would come in addition to the $130 million of assistance provided in September 2014 and to a second round of new concessional loans amounting to about $160 million to be considered soon by the Executive Board.
The Board of the IMF met on February 4, 2015, to consider how it could better support low-income countries hit by such public health disasters. This would take into account both the humanitarian case for providing such support and the wider international interest in supporting vigorous action to contain and halt a potential regional or global pandemic at the earliest possible stage.
Since the outbreak of Ebola in five countries in West Africa, some organizations have been calling for debt-relief for the affected countries, making an argument based on the impact of the economies of these countries.
Jubilee USA, the Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union have all made calls for deb-relief.
Since the outbreak of Ebola in March 2014 nearly 9000 people have died, there have been 22,500 cases. Only a handful has survived the disease.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi