Monday, June 13, 2016

AVOIDING CRISES - Ebola Outbreak Ramifications

"World Bank creates new fund to enable faster disaster response" PBS NewsHour 6/9/2016


SUMMARY:  When the Ebola outbreak struck West Africa in 2014, it took months for international agencies to funnel money into the affected areas. Eventually, more than 11,000 people died and the economic cost topped $10 billion. Now, the World Bank is creating a fast-disbursing fund to combat pandemics as soon as they unfold. Hari Sreenivasan talks to bank president Jim Yong Kim to learn more.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now, how the World Bank is changing its response to fast-moving crises.

In 2014, it took months before international agencies ramped up their approach to the Ebola outbreak, and that included getting money to hard-hit countries.  Eventually, more than 11,000 people died in West Africa, and the economic cost topped $10 billion.

Now the bank is creating a fast-disbursing fund to provide assistance during pandemics.

Hari Sreenivasan spoke recently with the bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, about that and other humanitarian crises.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Dr. Kim, thanks for joining us.

You recently launched something called the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility.  What is this?

DR. JIM YONG KIM, President, World Bank Group:  So, Hari, we were thinking, what can we do to prevent what happened with Ebola from happening again?

The response was too late.  The money didn’t start flowing really until about October, 10 months after we knew that there was an outbreak.  So…

HARI SREENIVASAN:  And during that time, people are getting infected.

DR. JIM YONG KIM:  Absolutely.

And so we said, can we somehow use our experience with catastrophe bonds?  We have now developed this way of pooling countries together.  So, the Caribbean countries who couldn’t afford to get insurance policies on their own, we have pulled them together.  And when a catastrophe happens, we have now got an instrument that immediately releases funds so that they can respond.

We thought, can we do something like that for pandemics?  And so we started looking at it.  We started talking to insurance companies.  Insurance companies had never had an insurance policy for pandemics before.  But they said we have learned how to insure lots of different things, let’s give it a shot.

Here’s what it’s going to do.  It’s a $500 million instrument that has attached to it an additional $100 million that will be used right away whenever we see anything going on.  The $500 million instrument is for three classes of diseases; (1) the flu orthomyxoviruses, which are the flu pandemics, (2) the filoviruses, which are the Ebola and Marburg viruses, and then also the (3) coronaviruses, SARS and MERS, that we have experienced in the past.

So, for those three, this $500 million instrument will disburse immediately to the poorest countries in our group, the 77 poorest countries.  And our hope is that the instrument, the cash instrument plus the $500 million pandemic facility will go so far upstream in tackling pandemics that we will stop them before they become a big problem.

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