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IMF approves $411 million in coronavirus aid for Ethiopia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund approved $411 million in emergency assistance for Ethiopia on Thursday to help the east African country with the coronavirus pandemic.

The IMF said in a statement that it also approved Ethiopia’s request for a suspension of debt service payments to the Fund, of about $12 million through Oct. 13. The suspension could be extended up to April 13, 2022, subject to the availability of resources in the IMF’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust for poor countries.

With the approvals, disbursements under Ethiopia’s existing $2.9 billion IMF loan programs approved in December 2019 would get a “re-phasing.” Access to the Extended Fund Facility would be reduced to “maximize” financial support under the Rapid Financing Facility loan, the IMF said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created severe health risks and weighed heavily on the Ethiopian economy. If the pandemic is not contained, it will put severe pressure on the health system with devastating social consequences,” the IMF said.

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Grant McCool