World Bank Surges Support to Address Coronavirus Outbreak in the Middle East and North Africa

The World Bank is partnering with countries across the Middle East and North Africa to help address the urgent public health needs of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Financing across the region, from emergency response components and a fast-track package for new projects, is part of the World Bank Group’s new Fast Track COVID-19 Facility — a global effort to help strengthen the COVID-19 response in developing countries. The immediate response includes financing, policy advice, and technical assistance to help countries cope with the urgent health needs of the pandemic and slow the spread of the disease.

“We have been working closely, around the clock, with governments across the region to dispatch immediate help,” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa. “This effort will continue throughout the crisis and beyond, as we work to save lives, slow the spread of the pandemic, and hasten the recovery across the region.”

The World Bank’s initial COVID-19 response in MENA includes new projects and operational measures in the following countries:

Djibouti: With a US$5 million IDA credit, approved by the Board of Directors on April 2, the World Bank is supporting the implementation of Djibouti’s Preparedness Plan through the Djibouti COVID-19 Response Project. The project will focus primarily on the immediate needs and timely response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Djibouti, and will help strengthen the country’s capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19, and support national systems for public health preparedness.

Egypt: On March 20, the World Bank activated the Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC) under the “Transforming Egypt’s Healthcare System Project”, which will provide US$ 7.9 million to fund emergency response activities related to the COVID-19 outbreak in Egypt. The CERC activation will support the Government of Egypt with the implementation of a preventive plan to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, including supporting operating costs to ensure delivery of equipment and supplies.

Lebanon: In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, on March 12 the World Bank reallocated US$40 million under the Lebanon Health Resilience Project to respond to the crisis. The financing will help equip governmental hospitals, increasing their ability to test and treat suspected cases, and strengthen the capacity of health workers and front-line responders to prevent further spread of the disease.

Morocco: The World Bank deployed an emergency response to help Morocco cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, the World Bank proceeded with the restructuring of a US$ 275 million Disaster Risk Management Development Policy Loan with a Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option (Cat- DDO). The restructuring adds a health-related trigger to the operation to allow the immediate release of funding under the program to address emergency measures.

West Bank and Gaza: US$5.8 million was allocated to help the Palestinian government deal with COVID-19. On March 6, the World Bank reallocated an initial amount of US$800,000 from the Health System Strengthening Project to cover urgent priorities such as equipment and materials for infection, prevention and control, isolation and case management. On April 2, a new fund of US$5 million was approved for West Bank and Gaza COVID-19 Emergency Response to support health emergency preparedness capabilities and strengthen the overall health care services and clinical capacity, including establishing and equipping quarantine and treatment centers and hiring short-term health personnel.

Yemen: A US$26.9 million IDA grant, approved by the World Bank Board on April 2, will help Yemen immediately respond and mitigate the risks associated with the COVID-19 outbreak and limit the possible extent of the spread of the disease in Yemen. The grant, which builds on more than three years of providing essential health and nutrition services to Yemenis across the country — reaching more than 17 million Yemenis so far — will be implemented in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO).