Money promised to fight Ebola has failed to turn up

A health worker checks people for Ebola symptoms at a checkpoint. Photo: Getty Images

Almost $3 billion was pledged by countries, organisations and individuals last year to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa but only two-thirds has arrived.

Researchers who analysed UN records say the funding delays “may have contributed to spread of the virus”.

“These delays in disbursements of funding may have contributed to spread of the virus and could have increased the financial needs,” argues Karen Grépin, Assistant Professor of global health policy at New York University.

She used the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ financial tracking system to analyse the level and speed of pledges made.

On March 23, 2014, Guinea’s Ministry of Health notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of a “rapidly evolving outbreak” of Ebola virus disease in the south eastern part of its country.

Within a week of the notification, WHO sent an initial donation of protective equipment and other medical supplies to Guinea.

However, the first major appeal to the international community for funding did not happen until August, when WHO and the presidents of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea called on international donors to provide $71 million to support the control of the outbreak.

About six months after the start of the epidemic, the UN estimated nearly $1 billion in humanitarian assistance. By mid-November, the official request for funding was estimated at $1.5 billion.

“Clearly, international leaders have found it challenging to estimate the financial requirements to tackle this rapidly spreading outbreak,” says Grépin. “The problem has not been the generosity of donors but that the resources have not been deployed rapidly enough.”

According to the latest WHO statistics, 8,810 people have died in the outbreak.

The analysis was published by the medical journal The BMJ.

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