September 16, 2014 / 5:56 PM / 5 years ago

World Bank approves $105 million Ebola grant for West Africa

A billboard displaying a government message about Ebola, which reads: "The risk of Ebola is still there. Let us apply the protective measures together", is seen on a street in the capital Abidjan September 10, 2014. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The World Bank approved a $105 million grant on Tuesday to speed up delivery of emergency supplies and provide support for healthcare workers in the three West African countries worst affected by the Ebola crisis.

The disease has swamped weak health systems, infecting hundreds of local staff in a region chronically short of doctors and nurses and in some areas is raging out of control. Getting more healthcare workers onto the frontlines is seen as critical to controlling the deadly virus.

The World Bank aid for Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone will fund hazard pay for healthcare workers in emergency treatment centers, death benefits for their families and in-country medical care for exposed health workers as part of an international effort to bolster the number of people handling the sick and dying.

The grant, approved on the same day U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to send 3,000 military troops to the region, will also pay for training programs for international staff going to the countries, and basic supplies for quarantined areas.

“The world needs to do much, much more to respond to the Ebola crisis in these three countries,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said when presenting the grant to his executive board.

The World Bank grant is part of the $200 million it had promised in August to fight the outbreak. Since then the death toll has doubled to more than 2,400 and U.N. officials now estimate containment will require $1 billion.

Tim Evans, head of the World Bank’s health group, said its financing, which will arrive in the countries by Thursday, will support basic prevention, training and disease monitoring to halt Ebola’s march into neighboring countries.

“Containing the Ebola epidemic has been hampered by the already fragile health systems in the affected countries. In turn, this is putting recent health gains in the region at serious risk,” said Evans, who is World Bank senior director for health, nutrition, and population.

Some of the World Bank money will also be used for basic food supplies and chlorine for the quarantined areas, benefiting about 395,000 people. More than one million people are facing food shortages and the situation could reach crisis proportions in coming months, the World Bank said.

Editing by Alex Whiting

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