The World Bank and IFC’s Boards of Directors approved an increased $14 billion package of fast-track financing earlier this month to assist companies and countries in their efforts to prevent, detect and respond to COVID-19.
According to the World Bank, “The package will strengthen national systems for public health preparedness, including for disease containment, diagnosis, and treatment, and support the private sector to protect jobs and sustain econimies,” states a WB press release.
In Samoa the World Bank has delivered close to ST$14 million tala (US$5.1 million) in immediate funding to support Samoa’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement comes at a time when businesses in Samoa feel the impacts of a slowing economy in the face of COVID-19 with hotels reporting job cuts of up to 4,000 staff and sole family income earners in the informal sector are unable to work.
“Protecting Samoan people from COVID-19 is our absolute priority,” said the Hon. Sili Epa Tuioti, Samoan Minister of Finance.
“While we remain fortunate that we currently have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Samoa, it is critical that we are as prepared as possible. This support from the World Bank will be an essential part of these preparations and will ensure we can respond swiftly in the event of a confirmed case.”
“The World Bank stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Samoa, and with the whole Pacific region, at this time of need,” said Michel Kerf, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea & the Pacific Islands.
“This funding is the first in a series of support that our team is now working to deliver in Samoa and across the Pacific in response to the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19.”
The US$5.1 million in funding has been made available through a Development Policy Operation with a Catastrophe-Deferred Drawdown Option, approved in 2018, that ensures emergency funding from the World Bank can be mobilized in the event of a major national emergency.
The option was used by Samoa following the major measles outbreak in late 2019 that infected approximately 5600 people and killed over 100 people, with infants and young children the most affected.
The package supports developing countries to strengthen health systems, including improving access to health services to safeguard people from the epidemic, strengthen disease surveillance, bolster public health interventions, and work with the private sector to reduce the impact on economies.
The World Bank is now working to provide urgent support to Pacific countries through this package.
Additionally, in December 2019 the World Bank committed US$9.3 million to strengthen Samoa’s health systems over the coming years through the Samoa Health System Strengthening Program. The program will enable Samoa to improve the quality and efficiency of its health system, including the ability to prevent outbreaks of communicable diseases and stem the rise of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes.
The US$5.1 million Catastrophe-Deferred Drawdown Option grant is funded through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the most in-need countries.
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