World Bank unveils $12 billion immediate support for coronavirus-hit nations

The World Bank announced on Tuesday an initial package of up to $12 billion in immediate support to assist countries coping with the health and economic impacts of the global coronavirus outbreak.

The financing is designed to help member countries take effective action to respond to and, where possible, lessen the tragic impacts posed by the flu-like virus, the World Bank said in a statement.  

The coronavirus outbreak has reached more than 60 countries worldwide.

Through this new fast track package, the World Bank aims to help developing countries strengthen health systems, including better access to health services to safeguard people from the epidemic, strengthen disease surveillance, bolster public health interventions. It also aims to help those countries work with the private sector to reduce the impact on economies.

The financial package, with financing drawn from across the International Development Association (IDA), the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the 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 $12 billion in financing — $8 billion of which is new — on a fast track basis.

This comprises up to $2.7 billion new financing from IBRD; $1.3 billion from IDA, complemented by reprioritization of $2 billion of the World Bank’s existing portfolio; $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.

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

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

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

The support package 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 World Bank will also provide policy and technical advice to ensure countries can access global expertise.

Meanwhile, the IFC will work with commercial bank clients to expand trade finance and working capital lines.  It will also 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 coronavirus globally.

Countries face different levels of risk and vulnerability to coronavirus, and will require different levels of support. The World Bank Group support will prioritise the poorest countries and those at high risk with low capacity. As the spread of virus and its impact continues to evolve, the Bank will adapt its approach and resources as needed.

The World Bank Group added that it is actively engaged with international institutions and country authorities to help coordinate the global response.