IMF Chief, Lagarde Praises Liberia Ebola Recovery

FOR their courage and tenacity in the face of an unprecedented public health emergency occasioned by the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Ms. Christine Lagarde, commending the people of Liberia, has promised continuous support in the days ahead the West African country. 

    Lagarde, in a statement yesterday, described the Liberian effort as extraordinary to behold. “The world has felt Liberia’s pain, and the international community has responded — even if it perhaps took too long to get started. Hopefully, the epidemic will soon be fully eradicated,” the IMF boss said.

   What is at stake now, according to Lagarde, is to continue to stand with Liberia as it rebuilds. Over the past five months, the IMF has provided Liberia with some $130 million of new financing and debt relief, including about $45.6 million from the Rapid Credit Facility and about $36.5 million of debt relief, recently approved by our Executive Board. The debt relief was the first time such assistance was provided under our new Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust.

    Largarde pointed out that the IMF intervention is providing crucial budget support and allowing the deficit to expand to assist the government’s efforts to eradicate the disease and support the economic recovery. The poor and vulnerable have been hit disproportionately, and action is urgently needed to address food insecurity.

   “Liberia has been making so much progress before Ebola hit, and it is essential that we do everything we can to help get the economy back on track. The IMF intends to continue to support the people of Liberia in their efforts, and I hope that we can help make a difference,” she said.

   Meanwhile, American and Liberian researchers have started a clinical trial to test the safety and effectiveness of Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc’s Ebola drug ZMapp, an experimental treatment that has already been tried in a handful of Ebola patients, including two U.S. missionaries.

   The trial, a joint effort by the Liberian government and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) will be conducted in Liberia and the United States among adults and children infected with Ebola, NIAID said on Friday.

   Although ZMapp has been used on a humanitarian basis in nine infected patients, there was no way to tell whether the treatment offered a statistically significant benefit, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID, said in a statement.

   Fauci said the randomized trial should provide the scientific evidence needed to show whether ZMapp is safe and effective, and whether it can be used in the current outbreak in West Africa and in future outbreaks.

   The trial will enroll adults and children admitted to Ebola treatment units in Liberia, health care workers infected with Ebola virus in West Africa who have returned to the United States for treatment, and adults and children who may have acquired Ebola in the United States through secondary transmission.

   Everyone in the study will receive the highest standard of care for treating Ebola. In addition, a portion of participants will also receive three doses of ZMapp. People in the study will be followed for up to a month after discharge.

   The U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is funding the production of ZMapp, a cocktail of antibodies made in tobacco plants.

   If ZMapp proves effective, it will become part of the standard of care and a new treatment will be randomly assigned to portion of the patients.

   Other drugs to be tested include a treatment from Canadian drugmaker Tekmira, the antiviral Favipiravir from Japan’s Toyama Chemical Co, blood plasma collected from Ebola survivors, the drug BCX4430 from North Carolina-based BioCryst, and a treatment called AVI-7537 from Sarepta of Massachusetts. Each drug will be tested in up to 100 people per arm.

   The trial is expected to conclude in December 2016, although scientists say they may need to be flexible as the Ebola epidemic wanes.

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