Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Zika could slash 1% of GDP for Jamaica and Caribbean

Published:Friday | February 19, 2016 | 2:00 AMSteven Jackson

The Zika virus could cost tourism-dependent Jamaica one per cent of its gross domestic product in the short term, according to extrapolations on the regional economic impact of the virus released on Thursday by the World Bank.

"Even with these assumptions, however, a group of countries highly dependent on tourism notably in the Caribbean could suffer losses in excess of 1.0 per cent of GDP and may require additional support from the international community to stem the economic impact of the virus. As new knowledge continues to emerge about Zika virus transmission and impact, or should public perceptions of risks from Zika rise sharply, the economic impacts will be reassessed," stated the World Bank.

As a whole, Latin America and the Caribbean will conservatively see the short-term economic impact of ZIKV costing in the region of US$3.5 billion or 0.06 per cent of GDP in 2016, according to the World Bank Group.

Funds to combat virus

The release came with an announcement of funds to combat the virus outbreak in Latin America and the Caribbean.

"In order to support countries in Latin America and the Caribbean affected by the Zika virus outbreak, the World Bank Group announced today that it has made US$150 million immediately available," the World Bank said.

This amount is based on current country demands for financing and follows extensive engagement with governments across the region, including sending teams of technical experts to affected countries. The multilateral agency said it would increase its support if additional financing is needed.

The World Bank noted that these initial estimates are predicated on a swift, well-coordinated international response to ZIKV. They also assume that the most significant health risks - and related behaviours to avoid transmission - are for pregnant women. This follows the World Health Organization's February 1 declaration of the suspected link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and microcephaly in newborns.

"Our analysis underscores the importance of urgent action to halt the spread of ZIKV and to protect the health and well-being of people in the affected countries," said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group.

Its financing will support a range of activities, including vector surveillance and control; identification of the people most at risk, especially pregnant women and women of reproductive age; follow-up and care through pregnancy and postnatal care for neurological complications; promoting access to family planning, public awareness, self-protection measures, community mobilisation; and other activities that will ensure a robust, well-targeted, well-coordinated and multisectoral response.

World Bank teams are actively working with the affected countries on their Zika response plans and responding to requests for technical support.

"Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have made it a priority to respond to the Zika virus emergency," said Jorge Familiar Calderon, World Bank vice-president for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Reflecting on his recent trip to Panama, where he visited the indigenous Kuna community of Usdub, he said, "I've seen first-hand how communities across the region are working together to successfully protect the population from the Zika virus. We stand ready to continue supporting their efforts through technical advice, knowledge sharing and financing."

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com