Learn how the World Bank Group is helping countries with COVID-19 (coronavirus). Find Out

  • Pandemics, which are large disease outbreaks that affect several countries, pose major health, social, and economic risks. A quick-moving pathogen spreading across the globe has the potential to kill tens of millions of people, disrupt economies, and destabilize national security. Climate change, urbanization, and the lack of water and sanitation are all factors that could contribute to fast-spreading, catastrophic outbreaks.

    A severe pandemic can result in millions of deaths, and even the most conservative estimates suggest that pandemics destroy up to 1% of global GDP, which is comparable to other top-priority threats, such as climate change. Strong health systems that reach all people—especially the most vulnerable—with effective services are the only way to ensure protection from major disease outbreaks. That is why ensuring and investing in preparedness before a crisis strikes saves lives and ultimately saves money.

    Global Preparedness Monitoring Board

    The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) is an independent monitoring and accountability body co-convened by the World Bank and World Health Organization, created in response to recommendations by the UN Secretary General’s Global Health Crises Task Force in 2017.

    Despite progress made since the West Africa Ebola crisis in 2014/15, GPMB’s 2019 report, A World At Risk noted an increasingly dire risk of widespread epidemics, and found that the world remained unprepared. GPMB warned that epidemic-prone diseases like Ebola, influenza and SARS were increasingly difficult to manage in the face of prolonged conflict, fragile states, and forced migration.

    Anti-Microbial Resistance

    Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) also poses a significant and growing health and financial threat to countries at all income levels. AMR occurs when microbes (bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites) cannot be treated by medicines that were previously effective. Investing in strengthening health systems and preparedness for pandemics and other infectious disease outbreaks is one of the best ways to contain AMR.

    Information about the World Bank’s work to prevent AMR is included under Strategy.

    Last Updated: Mar 02, 2020

  • What the World Bank is doing

    The World Bank supports countries in their efforts to prevent pandemics by strengthening veterinary and human health systems, as well as the bridges between them. Under IDA 19, the World Bank sharpened its focus on building crisis resilience including pandemic preparedness, committing to help at least 25 countries implement pandemic preparedness plans. Under IDA 18, the World Bank committed to help 25 countries develop preparedness plans.  Exceeding this target, 46 countries have developed National Actional Plans for Preparedness (NAPHS) or a similar pandemic preparedness plan.

    COVID-19 (coronavirus)

    COVID-19 (coronavirus) poses a severe public health challenge that requires coordinated action and continued transparency around the world. World Bank support is currently focused on disease surveillance, food safety, and crisis response, sharing international experiences on managing similar crises, and impact analysis of the outbreak on the global economy. Over the medium term, work will focus on strengthening resilience to public health emergencies, drawing lessons from this emergency, and sharing these lessons with the rest of the world.

    The poorest countries and most vulnerable populations are often hardest hit by global disruptions like these. The World Bank Group is closely coordinating with international partners to accelerate the international response to support countries to manage the global health emergency.

    See more on what the World Bank Group is doing to help countries with COVID-19.

    Regional Disease Surveillance Systems (REDISSE)

    To enhance regional preparedness  following the devastation caused by Ebola in West Africa in 2014 and 2015, the World Bank expanded IDA financing for the Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement (REDISSE) Program.  The initiative is a series of projects to strengthen national, regional, and cross-sectoral capacity for integrated disease surveillance and response in 16 West and Central African countries.

    The program has two objectives:

    1. to address systemic weaknesses within the animal and human health systems that hinder effective cross sectoral and cross border collaboration for disease surveillance and response, and;
    2. in the event of an eligible emergency, to provide immediate and effective response to said eligible emergency.

    See more on REDISSE including its financing and recipient countries in the Results section.

    Anti-Microbial Resistance

    Antimicrobials are drugs – such as antibiotics – that kill or control disease-causing microbes. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microbes mutate or adapt in ways that enable them to withstand antimicrobials, rendering treatments ineffective. AMR is dramatically accelerated by the over-use and misuse of antimicrobials, including antibiotics, in people and animals.

    The World Bank’s 2019 report Pulling Together to Beat Superbugs found that AMR already causes 700,000 deaths per year. Without action, the death toll from AMR could rise even higher, to as many as 10 million deaths annually by 2050. The world’s poorest people --those living in low- and middle-income countries or in the increasing areas affected by fragility, conflict and violence-- are especially vulnerable.

    Unchecked, AMR will hamper progress towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, harm economies and negatively impact human capital. If countries don’t act to stop the rise of AMR, its economic impact is projected to rise to more than $1 trillion annually after 2030.

    To help prevent this, the World Bank is including interventions that address AMR containment in its health investments in the developing world. One example is the REDISSE program (above), which is upgrading public health and veterinary laboratories to strengthen capacities and collaboration. Another example is the East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking Project, which focuses on resistant tuberculosis in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. A third example is the Regional Sahel Pastoralism Support Project that contains AMR mitigation activities. 

    Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Regional Investment Financing Project

    The World Bank’s Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Regional Investment Financing Project supports (with $250 million) Ethiopia, Zambia, and the African Union (AU) in combatting epidemics and advancing critical public health priorities. In addition to linking existing public health institutions and pooling the capabilities of national health authorities, the project will establish laboratories, transnational surveillance networks, emergency-response mechanisms, and other public health assets designed to manage diseases on a regional and continental scale.

    The activities and objectives of the project are closely aligned with Africa CDC’s five strategic pillars and the AU’s Agenda 2063, which aims to bring all communicable diseases on the continent under control by 2063.

    Last Updated: Mar 02, 2020

  • Regional Disease Surveillance Systems (REDISSE)

    Currently in its fourth phase, the REDISSE Program leverages $670 million of World Bank financing with the aim of improving surveillance and laboratory capacity in 16 countries in West and Central Africa. Recipients include Angola, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Togo, West African Health Organization (WAHO).

    REDISSE provides countries with financing that is under their direct control to address identified priorities. It ensures that financing for emergency responses is in place to decrease response delays in the event of a disease outbreak. REDISSE also finances regional level policy dialogue to promote information exchange, collective action and efficient use of country and shared resources, training institutions and commodity stockpiles for disease surveillance and response.


    Since the 10th outbreak of Ebola began in August 2018 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Bank has provided $286 million from IDA with an additional $50 million disbursed from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) – a financing mechanism housed at the World Bank. The funds have enabled responders, including the WHO, to step up the frontline health response, deliver cash-for-work programs to support the local economy, strengthen resilience in the affected communities, and contain the spread of this deadly virus.

    World Bank funding supports health clinics in all affected areas with free healthcare and provision of essential medicines. It has helped to establish Ebola treatment centers, new case management protocols, mobile laboratories, decontamination teams, handwashing stations, and provision of psycho-social support to families of patients.

    Community engagement campaigns have helped increase knowledge on how to limit Ebola transmission, build community support through existing community structures, encourage vaccination and explain the need for safe and dignified burials to prevent transmission.

    The investigational Merck rVSV vaccine has been widely administered through an innovative research protocol that has been integrated in the public health response supported by many partners, including GAVI.

    East Africa Health Laboratory Networking Project

    The East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking Project is a World Bank-funded regional laboratory network that includes Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Since its inception in 2010, the project has significantly increased regional capacity to detect outbreaks and mount rapid effective responses, with access to quality diagnostic services expanded to vulnerable groups in border areas and serving over 10 million people (of which 60 percent are female).   

    Through a network of 41 upgraded laboratories, the project is boosted by 10 cross-border committees across the five countries and one between Kenya/Uganda and South Sudan; screenings at selected border crossing points; enhanced diagnostic capacities for laboratory-confirmation of pathogens (from 8% to 100%); joint investigations on Ebola, Marburg, and yellow fever; continued strengthening of pandemic preparedness to address risks of cross-border transmission; and roll out of a mobile phone reporting system on disease outbreaks.

    Last Updated: Mar 03, 2020


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