The World Bank Group’s Support for Countries During the COVID-19 Crisis

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to have a detrimental impact on the health and welfare of billions of people, devastating economies and worsening inequality around the world. In 2020, about 100 million more people were pushed into extreme poverty. Between 720 and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020—as many as 161 million more people than in 2019. School closures put up to 1.6 billion students out of school, bringing significant losses in learning. Disruptions in health services have meant that many non-communicable and preventable diseases are going untreated. Women and girls are especially hard hit by these wide-ranging impacts, as they have been more likely to lose jobs or remain out of school; they have also faced a rise in gender-based violence.

The World Bank Group has mounted a broad and decisive response to the pandemic—the largest in our history. From April 2020 through the end of fiscal 2021, Bank Group financing totaled over $157 billion. The scale of this response reflects the Bank Group’s strong financial position, underpinned by the 2018 IBRD and IFC General Capital Increases and the IDA19 Replenishment. It includes $45.6 billion in financing from IBRD for middle-income countries, $53.3 billion of IDA resources on grant and highly concessional terms for the poorest countries, with built-in debt relief for countries at risk of debt distress; $42.7 billion1 from IFC to private companies and financial institutions; $7.6 billion in guarantees from MIGA to support private sector investors and lenders; and $7.9 billion from recipient-executed trust funds.

Our response began in April 2020, with our Health Strategic Preparedness and Response Program. This uses a global multiphase programmatic approach (MPA) to help countries access financing to address health needs. From April 2020 through June 2021, we committed $8.4 billion for 153 operations under the MPA and reprioritized $3.1 billion from the portfolio to support over 100 countries in their response to the pandemic.

In June 2020, we launched the World Bank Group COVID-19 Crisis Response Approach Paper: Saving Lives, Scaling-up Impact, and Getting Back on Track, which outlines a framework for our response that is exceptional in speed, scale, and selectivity. It prioritizes helping countries transition from crisis to recovery by: (i) saving lives; (ii) protecting the poor and vulnerable; (iii) securing the foundations of the economy; and (iv) strengthening policies and institutions for resilience, based on transparent and sustainable debt and investments.

We also played a key role in the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), which was established in May 2020 at the urging of the World Bank and the IMF. It has delivered more than $5 billion in debt relief to more than 40 participating countries. Originally set to end in December 2020, the initiative was extended twice because of the COVID-19 crisis and is expected to end in December 2021.

We are supporting the fair, broad distribution of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries so that they can save lives, bring the pandemic under control, and strengthen their recovery. In October 2020, as development of COVID-19 vaccines accelerated globally, we made $12 billion available over 24 months to help countries purchase and deploy safe and effective vaccines, through additional financing to the global health MPA; we increased this envelope to $20 billion in June 2021. This flexible package allows countries to procure vaccines through COVAX or other approved sources and to finance related activities that support deployment and strengthen health systems, such as medical supplies and personal protective equipment, vaccine cold chains, worker training, data and information systems, and communications that promote vaccine acceptance. In fiscal 2021, we committed $4.4 billion of the global health MPA to vaccine financing for 53 countries, including redirected financing from existing projects. This includes our support to the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust, in partnership with the African Union, announced in June 2021. It will help countries purchase and deploy COVID-19 vaccines for up to 400 million people, supporting the African Union’s target to vaccinate 60 percent of the continent’s population by 2022.

IFC is also making $4 billion available to expand health care access and increase the supply and local production of vaccines and personal protective equipment in developing countries as well as unlock medical supply bottlenecks. We are also publishing all of the Bank Group’s operational data on COVID-19 vaccines online. These efforts are further strengthened by ongoing collaboration with a broad range of global partners, including the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Gavi, the Global Fund, the IMF, UNICEF, the WHO, and the WTO.

As we work with low- and middle-income countries to address the health crisis and work toward recovery, we are tapping every opportunity to achieve sustainable growth, promote inclusion, and build a better world. We are moving to strengthen health systems, enhance social protection, address unequal impacts on women, keep students in school, preserve and create jobs, combat food insecurity, strengthen institutions and delivery of government services, promote debt sustainability, and mitigate and adapt to climate change. These priorities are especially important for the poorest countries and those affected by fragility, conflict, and violence. Through our unique combination of financing, analytics, and experience with past crises—and in partnership with governments, the private sector, and other multilateral organizations—we remain firmly committed to helping countries emerge from this crisis and move toward a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery.


1. Includes long-term commitments from IFC’s own account, short-term finance commitments, and core mobilization.