Health Initiative

World Bank Targets Global Epidemics

Life is returning to Liberia. Source: Getty Images
People are smiling again in Liberia.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa has exposed the world’s vulnerability to outbreaks of serious diseases.

  • Facts


    • Jim Kim and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Monday in Washington for talks.
    • The World Bank president wants to strengthen the WHO with an emergency fund for epidemics.
    • Mrs. Merkel plans to address the issue during Germany’s upcoming G7 presidency.
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Life is slowly returning to normal in Monrovia. Schools have reopened and people are shaking each other’s hands again in Liberia’s capital, where, until recently, people infected with Ebola waited to die.

The number of new infections of the deadly virus has sunk dramatically in West Africa. Although the epidemic is far from over, the worst seems to have passed. Liberia and its neighbors, Sierra Leone and Guinea, are recovering, but the return to normality poses a risk of complacency.

“We know the pattern,” Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, told Handelsblatt. “First, everyone is alarmed, then the wave of infections passes and we all forget.”

Mr. Kim is on a mission to draw greater attention to Ebola and other epidemics, and is keen to have Germany play a key role.

On Monday, he met with Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had flown to Washington for talks on the Ukraine crisis with President Barak Obama, to discuss a global system for combating epidemics.

The fact that Ms. Merkel found time in her busy schedule with Mr. Obama to meet with Mr. Kim sent a strong signal of support for the World Bank president’s plans.

With Germany’s help, Mr. Kim intends to strengthen the World Heath Organization, WHO, with an emergency fund and other new financial instruments to combat epidemics.

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