WASHINGTON — In response to a series of shocks facing countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), World Bank commitments topped over US$5 billion in fiscal year 2022, which ended June 30. These investments, together with strategic and reform-oriented advisory and analytical support, are helping people across the region as they mitigate the impacts of the war in Ukraine on food and energy prices, continue to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and build resilience to climate and other shocks, notably in the fragile and conflict-affected countries.
In fiscal year 2022, new commitments in MENA totaled US$4.1 billion from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which supports middle-income countries; US$814.5 million from the International Development Association, the Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries; and US$131 million for trust funds to support various activities including US$80 million in financing to support development efforts in the Palestinian territories. These commitments supported 34 new operations and additional financings across the region. In addition to lending, the Bank continued to deliver on global knowledge on areas of key development challenges. In that context, the Bank rolled out 94 advisory and analytical works, 24 of which were to countries in the Gulf this fiscal year.
“Overlapping crises, including the war in Ukraine and its impacts on food and energy prices, have further burdened the poorest and most vulnerable in the region,” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa. “Food price inflation is a major challenge. As many as 23 million people in the MENA region are at risk of falling into deeper poverty. The World Bank is committed to doing even more to help the people and the countries in MENA as they continue to strengthen food security, respond assertively and equitably to the COVID-19 pandemic, and build resilience against a range of other shocks that threaten to roll back hard-won progress.”
The people of the region face increased vulnerability brought on by rising food and energy prices induced by the war in Ukraine. The World Bank engaged affirmatively to help mitigate the immediate impact of the crisis and open the door to structural reforms aimed at securing food availability to the people, notably the poorest. In Egypt, the Bank approved a US$500 million loan to help ensure that vulnerable households have uninterrupted access to bread, while strengthening the country’s medium-term resilience to food crises and supporting reforms in food security policies. In Tunisia, the Bank approved a US$130 million loan to provide emergency support to help finance vital wheat imports, help dairy producers and smallholder farmers, and support medium-term policy changes. In Lebanon, the Bank approved a US$150 million project to finance wheat imports and to also help put the sector on a path toward greater resilience.
As the pandemic continues to exact a toll across the world, the Bank continued to extend financial support to countries in the region as they responded to the health, social, and economic impacts of COVID-19. The Bank approved US$350 million in additional financing for Jordan’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Project to continue cash support to poor and vulnerable households, including refugees from Syria, and workers in firms most affected by the pandemic. In Yemen, showcasing the important impact the Bank can have in even the most challenging of country contexts, over nine million people are expected to benefit from the additional financing of US$300 million that was approved for the Emergency Social Protection Enhancement and COVID-19 Response Project. In Tunisia, the Bank approved US$23.8 million in additional financing for the Tunisia COVID-19 Response Project, which focused on strengthening the country’s health system for public health preparedness. And in addition to previously committed COVID-19 vaccination projects in the region, the Bank approved US$100 million in support for vaccine procurement and deployment in Iraq this fiscal year.
“Our region is no stranger to crises, and we cannot wait until a crisis passes to make progress on overdue reforms. Our two-pronged approach to development – engaging on the immediate needs and keeping a strong focus on the medium- and longer-term reform agenda –is helping to lay the foundations for a sustainable development path for countries across the region. The time is always ripe for countries to act swiftly and resolutely by implementing no-regret policies that can help spur a green, resilient, and more inclusive future for all,” added Belhaj.
In Morocco, the World Bank approved US$500 million to help strengthen human capital and resilience. This budget support program seeks improvements in the protection against health risks, human capital losses during childhood, poverty in old age, and climate change risks. In the West Bank and Gaza, the World Bank approved its first-ever multiphase programmatic approach in education that will help catalyze further innovative investments in the sector. The US$20 million allocated for the first phase is aimed to support an education reform agenda focused on improving education outcomes of primary and secondary students, as well as reforming the secondary school leaving test to increase student pathways to higher education.
In fiscal year 2022, the World Bank released its Climate Change Roadmap for the region, which is aligned with the Bank’s Climate Change Action Plan. As part of the World Bank’s efforts to help bolster climate resilience in the region, the Bank committed US$55 million to support Djibouti’s access to improved low-cost and clean electricity transmission. The World Bank approved an additional US$100 million grant for the second phase of the Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project, which is designed to improve access to electricity in rural and peri-urban areas and to plan for the restoration of the country’s power sector. The project includes solar energy solutions for schools, health facilities, and drinking water facilities and has encouraged the development of a private sector-driven market for generating renewable, off-grid electricity.
The World Bank currently has a portfolio totaling approximately US$25.2 billion in the MENA region. The portfolio covers all priority and strategic sectors including agriculture, energy, education, climate, health, social protection, trade, and transportation.