May 20 : The World Bank Group (WBG) has announced its emergency operations to fight COVID-19 (coronavirus) have reached 100 developing countries – home to 70% of the world’s population.
According to a press statement issued by it, since March, the WBG has rapidly delivered record levels of support in order to help countries protect the poor and vulnerable, reinforce health systems, maintain the private sector, and bolster economic recovery.
This assistance, the largest and fastest crisis response in the WBG’s history, marks a milestone in implementing its pledge to make available $160 billion in grants and financial support over a 15-month period to help developing countries respond to the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 and the economic shutdown in advanced countries, it is claimed.
“The pandemic and shutdown of advanced economies could push as many as 60 million people into extreme poverty – erasing much of the recent progress made in poverty alleviation,” the statement quoted World Bank Group President David Malpass as saying. “The World Bank Group has moved quickly and decisively to establish emergency response operations in 100 countries, with mechanisms that allow other donors to rapidly expand the programs. To return to growth, our goal must be rapid, flexible responses to tackle the health emergency, provide cash and other expandable support to protect the poor, maintain the private sector, and strengthen economic resilience and recovery.”
Of the 100 countries, 39 are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly one-third of the total projects are in fragile and conflict-affected situations, such as Afghanistan, Chad, Haiti, and Niger. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) are also said to have also fast-tracked support to businesses in developing countries, including trade finance and working capital to maintain private sectors, jobs and livelihoods.
The WBG’s support through grants, loans and equity investments will be supplemented by the suspension of bilateral debt service, as endorsed by the Bank’s governors. IDA-eligible countries that request forbearance on their official bilateral debt payments will have more financial resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and fund critical, lifesaving emergency responses, according to the statement.