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US $150 million grant from World Bank; $39.2 million loan from IMF

The International Monetary Fund announced on Thursday that it would increase low-interest lending to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by US $39.2 million while the World Bank announced that it will provide a new grant of US $150 million to improve the country's health services and control malaria.

The bank's grant will "significantly improve the availability and utilization of quality basic health services for the population of targeted geographical areas, particularly among women and children" the institution said in a statement issued on Thursday.

A recent civil war in the DRC has left the country lacking in drugs, medical equipment and skilled medical personnel, it said. In 2003, it said, there was only one physician for every 100,000 Congolese.

The grant includes $30 million to prevent and treat malaria, a disease which accounts for 40 percent of child deaths in the Congo.

The IMF loan to the government is the latest in its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility arrangement. It brings the total amount the IMF has lent the Congo under the arrangement to the equivalent of $852.1 million.

In a statement released on Thursday, the IMF said its executive board approved the new disbursement despite what it called economic "slippages" in the country. These, the IMF said, were "due largely to political and social tensions".

It said developments since mid-2004 had "highlighted the fragility" of the economic and political situation.

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