World Bank: Ebola fund would create incentives

By , on November 17, 2014

World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Wikimedia Commons)
World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Wikimedia Commons)

BRISBANE, Australia — A proposed global emergency fund to contain the next Ebola outbreak would also provide an incentive for drug companies to develop vaccines to fight other future pandemics, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Friday.

As the international response failed to keep pace with outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, Kim last month floated the concept of a global contingency fund that would rapidly respond to future outbreaks by delivering billions of dollars to countries in crisis.

The Ebola outbreak is the worst ever and has infected some 9,900 people and killed more than 4,800 in the hardest hit countries — Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Kim, who is in the Australian city of Brisbane for the weekend G-20 summit of leaders of wealthy and developing countries, said many finance ministers and central bank governors had already expressed interest in the plan.

As well as ensuring a timely response to a disease crisis, the fund would also provide a financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to invest in treatments for diseases afflicting developing countries.

“If they knew that any vaccine or drug that they produce would have a fund that would pay for it if the next epidemic hit, I think that very well could bring more manufacturers into producing the necessary vaccines and medicines,” Kim told reporters.

“Right now with no such fund, it’s very hard for a drug company or a vaccine maker to find the motivation to develop those kinds of instruments,” he said.

Kim wants to develop the fund with the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and regional development banks.

Kim said he expected to have details of the concept finalized within a year.

“There’s a clear understanding that a mechanism like this could protect the global economy from the potential downside risk and the shock of another epidemic,” Kim said.

Rather than putting money upfront, funds could be raised on the international bond market after a global health emergency was declared.