World Bank provides USD 150-M fund to fight Zika virus

By on February 19, 2016

(Photo courtesy of the official Twitter account of World Bank)
(Photo courtesy of the official Twitter account of World Bank)

WASHINGTON—The World Bank Group on Thursday announced that it has provided USD 150 million to help countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to combat the Zika virus outbreak.

The Washington-based global lender said in a statement that this funding, which is immediately available, is based on current country demands for financing and the bank “stands ready to increase its support” if additional financing is needed.

The World Bank estimated that the short-term economic impact of the Zika virus outbreak on the region will be about USD 3.5 billion in total, representing only 0.06 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) of the region’s economies, but countries highly dependent on tourism could suffer losses in excess of 1 percent of GDP.

These initial projections of the economic impact of the disease are based on the expectation of “a swift, well-coordinated international response to the Zika virus” and on the assumption that the most significant health risks are for pregnant women, the bank noted.

“Our analysis underscores the importance of urgent action to halt the spread of the Zika virus and to protect the health and well-being of people in the affected countries,” Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group, said in a statement.

The World Bank financing will support a range of activities critical to the Zika virus response, including vector surveillance and control, identification of the people most at-risk, especially pregnant women and women of reproductive age, and follow-up and care through pregnancy and postnatal care for neurological complications, the bank said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday launched a global response plan to address the ongoing spread of Zika virus outbreak, with USD 56 million required for implementation.

Given the growing Zika outbreak in the Americas, WHO, based on recommendations of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee, on Feb. 1 declared the increasing cases of neonatal and neurological disorders a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.