Is the $200 million World Bank pledge toward the $73 million WHO request in fighting Ebola enough?
Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO), in partnership with the governments of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, released an eleven-page document outlining the planned response to the Ebola outbreak, which is now spreading in four West African countries.
Clearly stated on the second page of the WHO document is a rather exact figure for the amount of external funding needed to support the response to the Ebola outbreak over the next six months: $71,053,413.
Shortly thereafter, the World Bank announced a pledge of $200 million dollars to the Ebola outbreak response — more than double the WHO’s request.
There are also reports that the African Development Bank will be providing somewhere between $50-$60 million in funding the response.
So problem solved, right? Maybe. Maybe not.
The WHO has not been very good at estimating the resources needed to combat Ebola. For example, the same WHO document reports how earlier in the current Ebola outbreak, the WHO issued funding appeals that totaled $4.8 million and the donor community provided $7 million in response to those appeals. All of that money has been exhausted and the epidemic has only gotten more out of control.
The current WHO estimate takes into account finances pledged by governments of affected countries. The total estimated resource needs are actually more than $71 million figure.
Based on my own calculations from the budget breakdown pictured above, the WHO estimates $103 million is needed for the Ebola outbreak response. Governments in the three affected countries have pledged a total of $32 million toward response efforts (bringing the request for external resources to the $71 million mark).
If governments in affected countries fail to fulfill their pledged commitments, the World Bank and African Development Bank pledges (up to $260 million together) should still cover the estimated resource needs for the response to the Ebola outbreak as estimated by the WHO.
But it’s still hard to know exactly what these budget estimates cover. For example, there is some chance that experimental treatments for Ebola could improve outcomes for West Africans sick with Ebola. Are the costs of those treatments accounted for in the current budget estimates? I doubt it.
The current estimates also fail to account for needs of containing the spread in Nigeria, which only recently reported new cases of Ebola following the death of a man who had traveled there from Liberia. Today, a Nigerian nurse is reported to have died and a doctor is sick with Ebola; both treated the traveler from Liberia.
All of this is to say the resource needs are a moving target. Don’t everyone sit back and think the World Bank and the WHO have this covered.