World Bank pledges $150 mn for fight against Zika

Mexico City, Feb 19 (IANS) Thursday saw a new front opened in the battle against the Zika virus as the World Bank entered the fray, pledging $150 million for Latin America and the Caribbean to help fight the disease.

In a press release, the World Bank said Zika could wipe about $3.5 billion off the region’s economy in 2016, reports Xinhua.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a call for $56 million in funding to prevent the disease from spreading further. The World Bank’s response which almost triples the requested amount was hugely welcomed.

These funds are now earmarked to go toward technological research, helping to quickly develop both a vaccine and detection techniques.

“Our analysis underscores the importance of urgent action to halt the spread of the Zika virus and to protect the health and well-being of people in the affected countries,” said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group, in the release.

“The World Bank Group stands ready to support the countries affected by this health crisis and to provide additional support if needed,” he said.

According to the World Bank, these funds will also go toward controlling mosquitoes, identifying people at risk, especially pregnant women, caring for babies during pregnancy and after birth, and promoting access to family planning.

“Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have made it a priority to respond to the Zika virus emergency,” said Jorge Familiar Calderon, World Bank vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“I have seen firsthand how communities across the region are working together to successfully protect the population from the Zika virus. We stand ready to continue supporting their efforts through technical advice, knowledge sharing and financing,” he said.

According to the financial body, Mexico stands to lose $744 million this year, despite having few confirmed cases for the moment. Ironically, Cuba, where no trace of the Zika virus has been found, may lose $664 million, mostly due to dropping tourism figures.

The Olympics will boost Brazil’s flagging economy but it still stands to lose $310 million in revenue.

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