Economy February 18, 2016 | 3:57 pm

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World Bank provides US$150M to fight zika in LatAm, Caribbean

Washington.- In order to support countries in Latin Americaand the Caribbean affected by the Zika virus outbreak, the World Bank Groupannounced today that it has made US$150 million immediately available.

This amount is based on current country demands forfinancing and follows extensive engagement with governments across the region,including sending teams of technical experts to affected countries. Ifadditional financing is needed, the World Bank Group stands ready to increaseits support.

This announcement was accompanied by the release of initialprojections that the short-term economic impact of the Zika virus on the regionwill be modest, totaling US$3.5 billion, or 0.06% of GDP in 2016. The WorldBank Group noted, however, that these initial estimates are predicated on aswift, well-coordinated international response to the Zika virus.

They also assume that the most significant health risks—andrelated behaviors to avoid transmission—are for pregnant women. This followsthe World Health Organization’s February 1 declaration of the suspected linkbetween Zika virus infection during pregnancy and microcephaly in newborns.

Even with theseassumptions, however, a group of countries highly dependent on tourism—notablyin the Caribbean—could suffer losses in excess of 1 percent of GDP and mayrequire additional support from the international community to stem theeconomic impact of the virus.

As new knowledge continues to emerge about Zika virustransmission and impact, or should public perceptions of risks from Zika risesharply, the economic impacts will be reassessed.

“Our analysis underscores the importance of urgent actionto halt the spread of the Zika virus and to protect the health and well-beingof people in the affected countries,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the WorldBank Group. “The World Bank Group stands ready to support the countriesaffected by this health crisis and to provide additional support if needed.”

The World Bank Group financing will support a range ofactivities critical to the Zika virus response, including vector surveillanceand control; identification of the people most at-risk, especially pregnantwomen and women of reproductive age; follow-up and care through pregnancy andpostnatal care for neurological complications; promoting access to familyplanning, public awareness, self-protection measures, community mobilization;and other activities that will ensure a robust, well-targeted, well-coordinatedand multi-sectoral response.

World Bank Group teams are actively working with theaffected countries on their Zika response plans and responding to requests fortechnical support. “Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have made it apriority to respond to the Zika virus emergency,” said Jorge Familiar Calderon,World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Reflecting on his recent trip to Panama, where he visitedthe indigenous Kuna community of Usdub, he said, “I’ve seen firsthand howcommunities across the region are working together to successfully protect thepopulation from the Zika virus. We stand ready to continue supportingtheir efforts through technical advice, knowledge sharing and financing.”

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