The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a global health emergency that has led to an economic crisis of historic magnitude. While India managed to contain the virus in the first wave in early 2020 through various interventions including a nationwide lockdown, the economy is expected to contract by 8% in 2020-21.
That is why since March 2020, the World Bank has been working in partnership with the Government of India and other development partners to rapidly mobilize support to address health, social protection, and economic stabilization needs.
The second wave is now sweeping through the country—the shortage of essential medical supplies such as oxygen, hospital beds, and vaccines has reached a critical level. To help the country through the ongoing second wave of the pandemic, the Bank is working quickly to redeploy funds from existing projects and accelerate disbursements to help the government procure much-needed medical equipment, supplies, and emergency support.
Between March and June 2020, the World Bank had approved $2.75 billion in emergency lending to support India’s response to the COVID-19 crisis of which $2.25 billion was disbursed by December 2020. Of the $1 billion committed for health support, $562mn (56%) has already been disbursed. The Government has continued to commit resources against the remaining amount for the ongoing COVID response. This amount will be disbursed immediately upon receiving the supporting documentation from the implementing agencies.
On December 15, 2020, the Bank committed an additional $400 million through a 2nd COVID-19 related social protection project and the funds were disbursed to the Government early this year.
The initial $ 2.75 billion lending support covered:
1. Supporting India’s health sector: Support to the country’s immediate health needs through a $1 billion COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Project. More than half this amount has been disbursed to help strengthen health facilities in states, procure essential medical supplies such as testing-equipment and kits, PPEs, gloves, masks, oxygen cylinders and insure 2.2 million frontline health workers.
This support has resulted in:
- ramping up testing capacity to reach 1.5 million RT PCR tests per day
- oxygen supported beds increased by four-fold to 258,000
- Intensive care Unit (ICU) beds rose 25-fold to 73,000
- isolation beds increased by forty-fold to 1.54 million
2. Helping protect people from the impact of COVID-19: Social protection is critical as nearly half of India’s households are vulnerable and the majority of the workforce consists of informal workers. The World Bank is supporting and strengthening India’s social protection programs to help the poor and vulnerable households most affected by the pandemic through the $1.15 billion Accelerating India’s COVID-19 Social Protection Response Program.
The World Bank support is helping India build a social protection system that can cater to diverse needs by providing benefits that are portable, ensuring food, social insurance, and cash support across state boundaries. By August 2020, 84 percent of India’s poorest households had received at least one food or cash benefit under the program. Over 300 million women were the primary beneficiaries of cash transfers, which they received through their Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna accounts.
3. Supporting economic stabilization: Economic stabilization, including support to some 1.5 million small businesses that are the backbone of the Indian economy, through the $750 million Emergency Response Program for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises. This program is helping provide liquidity for MSME balance sheets, mitigate against potential solvency problems and job losses, and lay the foundations for a stronger MSME financing ecosystem once recovery begins.
The project has helped unlock the liquidity and credit needs of over 4 million viable MSMEs so far.
As the pandemic continues, India faces significant challenges in its path to recovery. The World Bank is committed to working closely with India’s government in these efforts.
Last Updated: Apr 30, 2021