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World Bank avails US$12bn to fight Coronavirus

The lender will also provide policy and technical advice to ensure countries access global expertise

| PATRICIA AKANKWATSA | As the world grapples with the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), the World Bank Group is making available an initial package of up to US$12 billion in immediate support to assist countries cope with the health and economic impacts of the global outbreak.

This financing is designed to help member countries take effective action to respond to and, where possible, lessen the tragic impacts posed by the coronavirus.

Through this new fast track package, the World Bank Group will help developing countries including Uganda to strengthen health systems which among others involves better access to health services, to safeguard people from the epidemic, strengthen disease surveillance, bolster public health interventions, and work with the private sector to reduce the impact on economies.

The financial package, with financing drawn from across International Development Association (IDA), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) will be globally coordinated to support country-based responses.

The COVID-19 support package will make available initial crisis resources of up to US$12 billion in financing — US$8 billion of which is new — on a fast track basis. These comprises up to US$2.7 billion new financing from IBRD; US$1.3 billion from IDA, complemented by reprioritization of US$2 billion of the Bank’s existing portfolio; and US$6 billion from IFC, including $2 billion from existing trade facilities.

The package will also include policy advice and technical assistance drawing on global expertise and country-level knowledge, according to World Bank Group President, David Malpass.

“We are working to provide a fast, flexible response based on developing country needs in dealing with the spread of COVID-19,” Malpass said.

“This includes emergency financing, policy advice, and technical assistance, building on the World Bank Group’s existing instruments and expertise to help countries respond to the crisis.”

The financial package will also provide grants and low-interest loans from IDA for low income countries and loans from IBRD for middle income countries, using all of the Bank’s operational instruments with processing accelerated on a fast track basis.

International Finance Corporation, the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, will provide its clients with the necessary support to continue operating and to sustain jobs.

The World Bank support will cover a range of interventions to strengthen health services and primary health care, bolster disease monitoring and reporting, train front line health workers, encourage community engagement to maintain public trust, and improve access to treatment for the poorest patients.  The Bank will also provide policy and technical advice to ensure countries can access global expertise.

In addition, IFC will work with commercial bank clients to expand trade finance and working capital lines as well as directly support its corporate clients — with a focus on strategic sectors including medical equipment and pharmaceuticals — to sustain supply chains and limit downside risks.

“These solutions will leverage the lessons learned from similar events in the past with a goal to minimize the negative economic and social impacts of COVID-19 globally”, Malpass says.

So far, the number of people with COVID-19 has passed 100,000 while 3,500 have died across 95 nations and territories, according to World Health Organisation.

Though Uganda is yet to report any COVID 19 case, the government has put in place various measures including cancelling all international meetings and restricted entry of visitors from worst hit countries such as China, South Korea, France, Italy, Spain and Germany as a precaution.

Also, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has announced $50bn of support for countries hit by the coronavirus. The organisation also warned that the outbreak had already pushed this year’s global economic growth below last year’s levels. Last year, the world economy grew at 2.9%.

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