WASHINGTON, April 16, 2021 —The Kingdom of Eswatini’s response to COVID-19 got a boost today following the approval of US$5 million loan in additional financing by the World Bank Group Board. The added funds will assist the Government of Eswatini accelerate its ongoing efforts to purchase and deploy COVID-19 vaccines and strengthen its critical health systems.
Along with a $3 million grant from the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Trust Fund, the total $8 million will support the ongoing drive to vaccinate 40 percent of the country’s 1.16 million population. This is part of Eswatini expanded health response to the pandemic that is also being supported by other development partners. Altogether the Government of Eswatini aims to vaccinate 80 percent of the population in a roll-out program which begun in March 2021.
“By providing upfront financing, the World Bank Group will contribute towards Eswatini’s efforts to acquire affordable and equitably access COVID-19 vaccines,” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho Namibia and South Africa. “It will also help deploy vaccines effectively through strengthening critical health systems such as surveillance, capacity for real-time reporting and analysis and improve the country’s emergencies preparedness.”
Through the additional funds, the government also plans to expand activities under the World Bank-funded Eswatini COVID-19 Emergency Response Project, which aims to prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19. These include extending testing coverage, procurement of Personal Protective Equipment, and sustained communications and promotions of non-pharmaceutical interventions which are essential to sustain throughout the vaccine roll-out.
Since its approval in April 2020, the COVID-19 response project has contributed to the government’s rapid adoption of public measures to contain the spread of the infection throughout the country at the start of the pandemic. They include substantially increasing laboratory and testing capacity, rigorous surveillance and contact-tracing, training of health care workers and strategic communication and community engagement campaigns which helped increase awareness on COVID-19 to more than 900,000 people across the country.
Under this project, case management of severe COVID-19 patients improved with the increase of the number of hospitals with ICU beds in the country. COVID-19 laboratory testing increased from 0 to 140,000 between April 2020 and March 2021. In addition, regional surveillance of new cases improved with the provision of 12 additional vehicles, the provision of training to some 6,273 healthcare workers and the supply of sanitation facilities in health care centers to allow for people to observe non-pharmaceutical COVID-19 interventions such as hand washing.
The World Bank, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries respond to the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19. This includes $12 billion to help low- and middle-income countries purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, and strengthen vaccination systems. The financing builds on the broader World Bank Group COVID-19 response, which is helping more than 100 countries strengthen health systems, support the poorest households, and create supportive conditions to maintain livelihoods and jobs for those hit hardest.