Professors at three leading British universities say International Monetary Fund policies favoring the repayment of international debts over social welfare spending contributed to the Ebola crisis by inhibiting an effective response by health care professionals in the three worst-hit African countries.

Reports Michelle Faul at The Huffington Post:

Conditions for loans from the IMF prevented an effective response to the outbreak that has killed nearly 8,000 people, the academics allege in a report in The Lancet Global Health journal this month.

… “The IMF aims to become part of the solution to the crisis … Yet, could it be that the IMF had contributed to the circumstances that enabled the crisis to arise in the first place?” asks the study, whose lead author is Cambridge University sociologist Alexander Kentikelenis. Co-authors are Lawrence King of Cambridge, Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and David Stuckler of Oxford University.

IMF lending requires governments to give priority to short-term economic objectives over investment in health, the authors said, citing IMF statistics that showed the terms of loans to Guinea, under an IMF austerity program for 21 years, Liberia, following one for seven years, and Sierra Leone, in one for 19 years.

The report further said that IMF policies contributed to “under-funded, insufficiently staffed, and poorly prepared health systems” in the three countries, which enabled the outbreak to spread so rapidly. The organization’s insistence on decentralized health care made mobilizing a coordinated response to Ebola more difficult than it could have been.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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