Preparing for the next pandemic: World Bank gets Sh171bn donation

Covid-19 test Eastleigh

A health worker prepares specimen bottles for use during a mass testing exercise for Covid-19 in Eastleigh, Nairobi, on May 20, 2020.

Photo credit: Simon Maina | AFP

The World Bank has received about $1.4 billion (about Sh171 billion) in donations for long-term financing of pandemic prevention, preparedness and response in low- and middle-income countries.

The new financial intermediary fund (FIF) will in return address critical gaps through investments and technical support at the national, regional and global levels.

The fund, inaugurated this month, provides complementary support, improves coordination among partners, incentivises increased country investments, serves as a platform for advocacy, and helps focus and sustain much-needed, high-level attention on strengthening health systems.

The devastating human, economic, and social cost of Covid-19 has highlighted the urgent need for coordinated action to build stronger health systems and mobilise additional resources for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.

While there are many institutions and financing mechanisms that support pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response activities, none of them is focused solely on these.

The Pandemic Fund will bring additional, dedicated resources for these activities, incentivising countries to increase investments.

“Covid-19 has highlighted the pressing need for action to build stronger health systems,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass.

“Investing now will save lives and resources for the years to come. This will help low- and middle-income countries and regions become better prepared for global health crises and we are pleased to have been able to proceed quickly in establishing the fund.”

The money will fund areas including zoonotic disease surveillance; laboratories; emergency communication, coordination and management; critical health workforce capacities; and community engagement.

Targeted technical assistance

It will also help build capacity for medical countermeasures, supporting peer-to-peer learning while providing targeted technical assistance
“The Covid-19 pandemic has been a seismic shock to the world, but we also know that the next pandemic is a matter of when not if,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“The suffering and loss we have all endured will be in vain unless we learn the painful lessons from Covid-19 and put in place the measures to fill critical gaps in the world’s defences against epidemics and pandemics.

“The FIF is one of those key measures, and WHO looks forward to fulfilling its technical leadership role in advising the FIF Board on where to make the most effective investments to protect the health, especially in low- and middle-income countries.”

The World Bank will serve as the FIF’s trustee and host the secretariat and leading experts to assess and make recommendations to the governing board on the technical merits of proposals for funding requests from the countries and ensure linkages to international health regulations.

The new fund is overseen by a governing board that comprises an equal representation of sovereign donors and potential implementing country governments (co-investors), as well as representatives from foundations and civil society organizations (CSOs).

“The World Bank and WHO will intensify their work with the governing board in consultation with CSOs and other stakeholders, to help operationalise the fund and develop the FIF results in framework and priorities in the run-up to the first call for proposals,” said President Malpass.

The FIF was developed with broad support from members of the G20 and beyond. They have since pledged financial commitments and more are expected in the coming months.

So far, commitments have been made by Australia, Canada, China, the European Commission, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Wellcome Trust.