Washington, April 2, 2020 — The World Bank has announced emergency funding to mitigate the risks of a potential outbreak of COVID-19 in Yemen. A US$26.9 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA) — the Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries — will finance a new emergency project designed to strengthen Yemen’s fragile systems for public health preparedness, including the detection, containment, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) will implement the project through local health authorities.
The COVID-19 pandemic poses a unique risk to Yemen where, after five years of intense conflict, the health system is on the brink of collapse. Less than 50% of health facilities are fully functional, and those that are lack specialists, equipment and medicine. There are no doctors in 18% of the country’s 333 districts, most health personnel have not received salaries for at least two years, and immunization coverage has dropped by 30% since the conflict began. Testing kits for COVID-19 are only available for 600 people; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is very limited; case management and isolation capacity are poor, with just two equipped treatment centers for 40 patients; and two current reference laboratories are overwhelmed by other outbreaks, such as cholera.
Yemen’s population of about 28.9 million (2018) includes around 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The country has suffered high rates of other communicable diseases, including cholera in 2017, followed by diphtheria and dengue fever. Although flights to Yemen have been limited by the conflict, the consequences of the importation of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and its likely local transmission, are expected to be critical, requiring substantial and immediate response.
The bulk of IDA’s emergency funding for Yemen — $23.4 million — will finance the procurement of medical supplies and equipment, as well as training and implementation expenses, and will include the rehabilitation and upgrading of existing health facilities. Initially, the project will specifically target large communities with high risks of local transmission.
"The new emergency operation is the latest support by the World Bank to preserve and protect Yemen’s health system, so that it can respond to the COVID19 outbreak," said Marina Wes, World Bank Country Director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti. "The grant builds on more than three years of providing essential health and nutrition services to Yemenis across the country, reaching more than 17 million people. The World Bank’s ongoing investment in Yemen’s health sector is critical for saving the lives of vulnerable Yemenis and essential for ensuring a better future for the country."
IDA has provided a total of US$1.727 billion in grants to Yemen since 2016. The World Bank provides technical expertise to design projects and guide their implementation by building stronger partnerships with WHO, the United Nations’ Development Programme, United Nations Children’s Fund, and United Nations Office for Project Services, all of which have implementation capacity on the ground in Yemen.
World Bank Group COVID-19 Response:
The World Bank Group is rolling out a $14 billion fast-track package to strengthen the COVID-19 response in developing countries and shorten the time to recovery. The immediate response includes financing, policy advice and technical assistance to help countries cope with the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. The IFC is providing $8 billion in financing to help private companies affected by the pandemic and preserve jobs. IBRD and IDA are making an initial US$6 billion available for the health-response. As countries need broader support, the World Bank Group will deploy up to $160 billion over 15 months to protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery.