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IMF Prepares New Aid in Ebola’s Wake

FILE - Business is suffering because of Ebola, say shopkeepers in Waterside market in Monrovia, Liberia. (Benno Muchler/VOA)

The International Monetary Fund is preparing around $150 million in additional support to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the countries at the heart of the Ebola epidemic, the fund's representative in Liberia told Reuters on Thursday.

"In Guinea and Sierra Leone, existing fund financial programs are being augmented to provide more resources to these countries. In Liberia, a one-off disbursement under the fund's Rapid Credit Facility is being considered," Charles Amo-Yartey told Reuters in an email.

The money could be made available in the first quarter of this year and would add to $130 million disbursed by the fund in September.

The three West African states’ economies have been damaged by the Ebola outbreak, which had killed at least 8,235 people since starting more than a year ago, the Word Health Organization reported Wednesday.

Liberia and Sierra Leone also are recovering from civil wars.

Sierra Leone, the country worst hit, reported nearly 250 new confirmed cases in the past week, but the spread of the virus there may be slowing. The rate of transmission has ebbed in Liberia and Guinea.

The aid follows a decision by Group of 20 leaders in Australia in November to support countries hit by Ebola through reform of the Post-Catastrophe Debt Relief Trust, said an IMF spokeswoman in Washington.

The trust was set up after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 to enable the IMF to join debt relief efforts for very poor countries hit by natural disasters.

IMF staff members are developing a proposal for at least $130 million in interest-free financial support for the three countries, the spokeswoman said. The proposal is expected to be presented to the fund's executive board later this month.