The International Monetary Fund announced immediate debt relief for 25 poor countries to help them free up funds to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“This provides grants to our poorest and most vulnerable members to cover their debt obligations to the IMF during an initial phase over the next six months and will help them channel more of their scarce financial resources into life-saving emergency medical assistance and other relief efforts, ”said the IMF Managing Director. Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement.
The countries are almost all in Africa, but Afghanistan, Yemen, Nepal and Haiti are also on the list.
Debt relief will be funded by the IMF’s Containment and Disaster Relief Trust Fund, which was first established to tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2015 and has been reassigned to help countries fight Covid-19.
The fund currently has $ 500 million, with Japan, Britain, China and the Netherlands among its major contributors.
“I urge other donors to help us replenish the resources of the trust fund and further strengthen our capacity to provide additional debt service relief for two years to our poorest member countries,” said Georgieva.
The IMF has also approved $ 1 billion in emergency funding for Ghana and $ 442 million for Senegal to enable the two countries to respond to the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic.
The IMF and the World Bank have called on rich countries to stop collecting debt payments from poor countries from May 1 to June 2021.
Last week, the World Bank announced it would deploy $ 160 billion in emergency aid over 15 months to help countries affected by the virus, including $ 14 billion in debt repayment of 76 poor countries to other governments.
It comes as the head of monitoring and evaluation of the Irish aid agency GOAL has said that the weak capacity of many African countries to respond to the Covid-19 crisis should not be underestimated. .
Dr Enida Friel said there are now cases of Covid-19 in almost all African countries with around 10,000 confirmed cases and 500 deaths.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, she said the lack of water and sanitation in Africa is a major concern and that GOAL guarantees access to water and soap in all the countries in which it works. .
In addition to this, the agency also disseminates information on preventing infections and identifying symptoms.
Dr Friel pointed out that a few countries in West Africa have faced Ebola and through it skills have been acquired.
In Sierra Leone, she said, all Ebola protocols have now entered into force, but this is not the case for the rest of the continent where their health systems are weak or non-existent.
Dr Friel said Uganda, with a population of 45 million, has 65 intensive care beds, while Malawi, with a population of 17 million, has only 25 beds in intensive care. intensive care. Even Sierra Leone, she said, only had 18 ventilators.