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IMF Grants $100M for Debt Relief to Ebola-hit Countries

FILE - Health workers rest outside a quarantine zone at a Red Cross facility in the town of Koidu, Kono district, in eastern Sierra Leone, Dec. 19, 2014.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will get close to $100 million in total to pay off their debts to the International Monetary Fund, the first time a global institution provided debt relief to the three countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak.

The IMF also called on other international creditors to offer further debt relief to the countries to help them deal with the economic fall-out from the devastating epidemic.

It also offered them an additional $160 million in zero-interest loans, subject to approval of its board of some debt relief to the three impoverished West African countries so they could spend more on government services and their economies.

The IMF does not normally offer grants, only loans. But alongside the announcement on Thursday, it established a special catastrophe trust that would provide a regular way to offer grants to countries hit by epidemics or other natural disasters.

The $100 million grant would allow each country to service their IMF debts for the next two years, the Fund said.

"This is a strong example of the IMF demonstrating flexibility and innovation in responding to the needs of our global membership," IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a statement.

The Group of 20 major economies last year urged the IMF to provide $300 million in funds to help stem the Ebola outbreak and support the three West African countries.