World Bank approves US$75 million to strengthen Nepal’s health and vaccination system

By Laxman Datt Pant

World Bank approves US$75 million to strengthen Nepal’s health and vaccination system

Aiming to strengthen Nepal’s health and vaccination program by supporting access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and equitable vaccine distribution, on March 18 the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a U$75 million contribution from the International Development Association (IDA).

Intended for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and to enable a stronger response to the pandemic, this financing is expected to facilitate the vaccination of at least one-third of the population through an equitable distribution plan.

Stating that the pandemic presents immense challenges and an uncertain environment, particularly in the purchase, supply, and distribution of vaccines, Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Director for Nepal, Maldives, and Sri Lanka, said, “It is evidence of our strong partnership with Nepal that the Bank has been able to move quickly to support the government’s ambitious plans to vaccinate at least 72% of the population.”

Highlighting that this support is critical for Nepal to safeguard the physical health of its people and the economic health of the nation, Gail Richardson, World Bank Practice Manager for South Asia for the Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice, said, “Providing fast and fair access to the approved COVID-19 vaccines for the most vulnerable people will advance population-level immunity which is central to resilient recovery from the devastating effects of COVID-19.”

The additional financing from the World Bank builds on the US$29 million for the original COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project (ERHSPP) that was approved in April last year, the existing Bank-supported health programs, and the confirmed support of other development partners in the context of the government’s overall COVID-19 response.

In addition to providing immediate assistance to prevent COVID-19 and raising awareness among the general population about the risk and potential impact of the pandemic, the ERHSPP aims to support the strengthening of the efforts of the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) of Nepal as well as contributing to providing an immediate and effective response during the crisis.

  • 90% of the new financing will be spent on the purchase and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines for prioritized populations beyond the 20% who will be vaccinated through COVAX
  • 10% of the financing is expected to help to strengthen the health system to support the COVID-19 vaccination effort and procure other COVID-19-related supplies including diagnostic tests, laboratory equipment, and therapeutics
  • The additional financing also aims to support community engagement and risk communication and strengthen existing digital technology-based pandemic data, surveillance, and monitoring systems
  • This additional financing for Nepal is among three projects in the first phase of support for the COVID-19 vaccination effort across the South Asia region
  • The World Bank is taking fast action to help developing countries to respond to the impacts of COVID-19 which includes US$12 billion to help low- and middle-income countries to purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments and to strengthen vaccination programs
  • This financing builds on the broader World Bank Group COVID-19 response which is helping more than 100 countries to strengthen health systems and maintain livelihoods

Similarly, on the same day, the World Bank’s Board also approved additional financing of US$ 500 million for Bangladesh and US$60 million for Afghanistan from the IDA, complemented by US$50 million from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund and US$3 million from the Energy Management Assistance Program.

In addition to financing, the World Bank is also supporting South Asian countries including Nepal on various aspects of designing and deploying fair and equitable vaccine strategies.