IMF considering debt relief to Ebola-hit countries in West Africa

Ebola Outbreak

The economies of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are facing economic strife following the deadly Ebola outbreak. The charity network, Jubilee USA, is now calling for the International Monetary Fund to cancel their debt to help them recover. CCTV America’s Kate Fisher reported this story from Washington, D.C.

In Western Africa Ebola has already claimed more than 7,800 lives. In 2013, the year the outbreak started, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone spent more than $80 million on debt payments, according to data from the World Bank. That’s money that anti-poverty campaigners said could have gone towards preventing disease.

“We know that there is existing money to actually make that debt relief happen in an existing trust at the International Monetary Fund, and what’s so important about debt relief money is it’s a long term investment in social infrastructure,” Eric LeCompte executive director of Jubilee USA said. “So over the next decade, instead of these countries making debt payments, what these countries are able to do is put that money specifically into building health infrastructure.”

An IMF spokesperson said it is looking at further options to help Ebola-stricken countries, by widening its Post Catastrophe Debt Relief Trust. Until now, that trust has only been used once before in Haiti, to help in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

The IMF said a formal proposal is expected to be presented to the board later this month. The mechanism is currently too restrictive to be applied to the Ebola epidemic, since it’s limited to natural disasters.

Supporters said that widening the eligibility criteria would not only help West Africa now, but other countries in the future.