When the COVID-19 pandemic struck Mongolia, the country faced a number of challenges in responding to the disease. Given the country’s low population density across a vast territory, delivery of essential health services was challenging. There was no comprehensive disease surveillance system, and laboratory capacities were weak. Since 2010, government spending on health has been low at between 6-8 percent of total government spending, which falls short of the 15 percent recommendation of the Abuja declaration. Healthcare facilities were aging, while allocations for maintenance and repairs were low. Frontline health workers, mostly women, faced extreme stress and required psychosocial support.
The World Bank emergency response project sought to strengthen Mongolia’s capacity to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and strengthen national systems for public health preparedness. The project provided financing and cross-sectoral technical expertise, and promoted collaboration among different ministries, government agencies and local stakeholders. The project provided medical, laboratory, and personal protection equipment, medical supplies, and laboratory tests to selected hospitals and the World Bank proactively assisted the government to purchase these supplies, ensuring their delivery in time to help protect clinicians. The project financed vaccines used in the national vaccination campaign: this led to much earlier and higher population coverage compared to the rest of the region, averting considerable deaths in later waves. The project contracted the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to design and construct a new, energy-efficient central vaccine storage facility with advisory support from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) in accordance with international standards.