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World Bank Chief: Fighting Poverty Helps Fight Ebola

  • Jim Randle

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim says the fight against Ebola is a key part of the struggle against poverty and inequality, giving special urgency to the October 6 gathering of top economic officials from around the world in Washington.

With Ebola and other issues in mind, the head of the International Monetary Fund is urging member nations to step up efforts to overcome what she called "mediocre" economic growth.

Ebola's devastating impact on West African nations is well understood by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, an expert in infectious diseases who also heads a global lender with the mission of ending poverty.

Dr. Kim says poverty and inequality contribute to the spread of the killer virus.

"The knowledge and infrastructure to treat the sick and contain the virus exists in high and middle-income countries," he said. "However, over many years, we have failed to make these things accessible to low-income people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone."

In a speech at Washington's Howard University he said inequality isn't just unfair - it's deadly.

"So now, thousands of people in these countries are dying because, in the lottery of birth, they were born in the wrong place," he said.

Kim says the global response to Ebola is picking up pace after a slow start. He says the bank is focusing on raising the income of the lowest 40 percent of earners in developing nations, and improving their access to health care, food, shelter, and jobs.

But in a speech at Georgetown University, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund says employment and economic growth are still uneven and slow, six years after the start of the financial crisis.

Christine Lagarde says member nations must do more to create jobs.

"There has to be a new momentum, a new momentum that will consist of putting a set of bolder policies together in order to overcome what I would call the new mediocre," she said. "And that's a risk if it stagnates as such...if we have this horizon of new mediocre."

Experts are urging member nations of the IMF and the World Bank to step up investment in infrastructure as a way of boosting both short and long term economic growth.

Infrastructure investment is one of many topics on the agenda of the IMF-World Bank meetings as economic leaders gather in Washington to discuss improving opportunities for women and job prospects for youth around the world.

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