The World Bank has approved $1 billion fund to help India prevent, detect, and respond to the covid-19 outbreak and strengthen its public health preparedness. This is the largest ever health sector support from the multilateral lending institution to India.
The fund will be managed by the National Health Mission (NHM), National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and will cover all states and union territories (UTs).
It will address the needs of infected people, at-risk populations, medical and emergency personnel and service providers, medical and testing facilities, and national and animal health agencies.
The fund will be utilised for procurement of testing kits, setting up of new isolation wards–including turning hospital beds into intensive care unit beds–infection prevention and control, and purchase of personal protective equipment, ventilators, and medicines, particularly for district hospitals and designated infectious disease hospitals.
The project will immediately enable the government of India to scale-up efforts to limit human-to-human transmission, including reducing local transmission of cases and containing the epidemic from progressing further,” the World Bank said in a statement.
“In parallel, interventions to strengthen the health system will be rolled out to improve the country’s capacity to respond to the covid-19 epidemic and be better prepared to respond to emerging disease outbreaks, including transmission between humans and animals,” the international body added.
India has imposed a 21-day nationwide lockdown till 14 April to limit the spread of coronavirus.
World Bank Country Director for India Junaid Ahmad said the Bank is working closely with the Indian government to provide urgent and flexible support to the country as it fights the spread of covid-19.
“This operation is expected to enhance surveillance capacities, strengthen diagnostic systems, and expand the capacity of laboratories. But, covid-19 is not only a health challenge. It has deep social and economic implications. In parallel, we are working with equal urgency with government on social protection programs and economic measures that protect the livelihoods of people,” Ahmad said.