IMF okays $187 million to support Ebola-hit Sierra Leone, and throws in debt relief

The Ebola epidemic and the sharp decline in iron ore prices are weighing heavily on the country's economy.

THE International Monetary Fund approved on Monday funding and debt relief worth about $187 million for Ebola-hit Sierra Leone.

The IMF said it was immediately disbursing just over $85 million to the country under an existing credit facility and further enlarged the facility by about $73 million.

In addition it approved $29 million in debt relief for the country under its Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust.

The funds will support the government in the battle against the deadly disease by helping to cover immediate budget and balance of payments shortfalls, and reinforcing the government’s foreign reserves, the IMF said.

“The Sierra Leonean economy is battling two severe exogenous shocks with dramatic social and economic repercussions,” said IMF deputy managing director Min Zhu.

“The Ebola epidemic and the sharp decline in iron ore prices are weighing heavily on the economy and have the potential for significant output contraction, continued price pressures, and increased fiscal and balance of payments deficits in 2015.”

Sierra Leone is one of the three West African countries most severely hit by Ebola, which has killed more than 9,500 people since the epidemic emerged in Guinea in December 2013.

About 3,400 of the deaths were in Sierra Leone.

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