World Bank to increase support to Middle East countries to fight coronavirus

In Egypt, the World Bank will provide $7.9m to fund emergency response activities

Egyptian municipality workers disinfect the Giza pyramids necropolis on the southwestern outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo on March 25, 2020 as protective a measure against the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.  / AFP / Khaled DESOUKI

The World Bank is extending support to Middle East and North African countries as they battle the coronavirus pandemic.

The immediate response includes financing, policy advice, and technical assistance to help countries cope with 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,” Ferid Belhaj, World Bank vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

“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 lender’s initial Covid-19 response in Mena countries includes new projects and operational measures in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Yemen, Djibouti and West Bank and Gaza.

In Egypt, the World Bank will provide $7.9 million (Dh29m) to fund emergency response activities related to the Covid-19 outbreak including supporting the country in the delivery of equipment and supplies.

In Lebanon, the World Bank on March 12, reallocated $40m 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.

The World Bank also deployed an emergency response to help Morocco cope with the crisis including restructuring of $275m 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,” it said.

For West Bank and Gaza, an amount of $5.8m was allocated to help the Palestinian government deal with the pandemic. On March 6, the World Bank reallocated an initial amount of $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 $5m was also approved to support health emergency preparedness capabilities and strengthen the overall healthcare services.


In Yemen,  a $26.9m IDA grant was approved to help the country immediately respond and mitigate the risks associated with the Covid-19 outbreak and limit the possible extent of the spread of the disease in the country. The World Bank is also supporting Djibouti  with a $5m IDA credit, approved by the Board of Directors on April 2.

Last month,  the lender said it is rolling out a $14 billion fast-track package to strengthen the Covid-19 response in developing countries and shorten the time to recovery. IFC, a member of the World Bank group, will increase financing availability to $8bn as part of the $14bn package, up from an earlier $6bn, to support private companies and their employees hurt by the economic downturn caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

The World Bank is planning to  deploy up to $160bn over 15 months to protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery.

The International Monetary Fund is also allotting $50bn in emergency funding to poor and middle-income countries that may need assistance in responding to the coronavirus outbreak.