World Bank Makes Move To Start Pandemic Aid Projects This Week

The president of the World Bank has said that the executive board have considered to fast-track funds to Afghanistan and Ethiopia later this week in a bid to respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

David Malpass made this known in a blog he posted on LinkedIn on Sunday, that the funding for the project would come from a $14 billion Fast Track Facility (FTF) which was approved last week to help countries deal with the health and economic impact of the coronavirus. He also said that the World Bank teams were preparing projects in 40 countries for up to $1.7 billion under the FTF.

Malpass further explained that the projects in Afghanistan and Ethiopia were the most advanced and would be presented to the board within the week for formal approval. Work was also advancing on projects in 14 other countries, he said, without naming them.

These projects could then be quickly replicated in other parts of the same country, through funding from other multilateral development banks, or in other countries.

In addition, the Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the Bank, are working to free up $1.5 billion in COVID-19 funding in 24 countries by restructuring existing projects, he said, without revealing their names.

The IFC is also working to start extending trade finance and working capital lines to clients, with regular board action expected on those efforts in the next two to four weeks.

Malpass said Bank officials are in close touch with finance ministers and central bankers from around the world to discuss their needs and responses to the crisis.

Bank officials have also identified ways to support countries as they race to procure much-needed medical equipment and upgrade medical facilities.

The respiratory disease has infected more than 305,000 people around the world, and killed more than 13,000, according to the latest Reuters tally.

Ethiopia has closed its land borders and deployed security forces as it steps up measures to control the spread of the coronavirus as it has 11 confirmed cases. The Ethiopian government has allocated 5 billion birr ($151 million) in the fight against COVID-19.

Afghanistan has 42 confirmed cases, one recovered case and one death. Afghan government has spent $15 million in response to the outbreak and has banned all large gatherings, including the closure of venues that attract large crowds such as entertainment places, sports grounds, swimming pools, fitness clubs and wedding halls.


How effective will the project be?

With past experiences on diseases like Ebola, SARS, and Zika, immediacy is an asset. Countries that have access to the right measures taken quickly, are able to stop the transmission of diseases and protect lives.

It is noted that poor countries with weak health systems are often hit hardest by such outbreaks hence the introduction and implementation of the Fast Track Facility by the World Bank.

On a press call between President Malpass and the press on March 3, 2020, he emphasized that the project will be effective because aids will be given with speed.


“The response to COVID-19 will be most effective—and I stress this—if governments and the private sector take coordinated and rapid action. Hence, the breadth of the response will be crucial to its effectiveness. Let me say that again: the breadth of the response, which is what we're discussing today, will be crucial to its effectiveness,” he said.