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BRIEF April 27, 2020

Fact Sheet: Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility

The Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility officially closed on April 30, 2021.

COVID-19 was one of the viruses covered by the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) insurance window – a financing mechanism designed to help the world’s poorest countries respond to cross-border, large-scale outbreaks. AIR Worldwide, an independent calculation agent in charge of tracking COVID-19, reported on April 17, 2020 that the virus had met all the necessary activation criteria, including outbreak size, spread and growth.

At the time when the insurance window was triggered, IDA countries accounted for 0.62% (4,653 cases) of reported COVID-19 cases globally.

On April 27, 2020, the Steering Body of the PEF allocated US$195.84 million to 64 of the world’s poorest countries with reported cases of COVID-19, with special attention given to areas with the most vulnerable populations, especially in fragile and conflict-affected countries.

By September 30, 2020, the entire $195.84 million COVID-19 insurance payout had been transferred to the beneficiary countries, providing additional financial support to their COVID-19 response, including essential and critical lifesaving medical equipment and personal protective equipment.


The Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility officially closed on April 30, 2021.



Q. How was the PEF designed?  

The 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa highlighted the difficulty in rapidly mobilizing funding from the international community to contain a pandemic outbreak. To address this challenge, the PEF – housed at the World Bank – was launched in 2016 to provide an additional source of financing to the world’s poorest countries when they face cross-border, large-scale outbreaks. PEF financing consisted of funding provided by Australia, Germany, IDA, and Japan as well as insurance coverage provided in 2017 through catastrophe bonds issued by the World Bank and sold to capital market investors, and insurance-linked swaps executed by the World Bank with insurance companies.

Q. Which countries were eligible for financing?

Countries eligible for PEF financing were members of the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s institution that provides concessional finance for the world’s poorest countries. This included countries that were IDA-eligible under IDA 17 when the PEF was established.

Q. What was the PEF’s financial structure?

The PEF provided financing through either its cash or insurance window.  These were independent of one another and designed to be complementary.

Q. How were the triggers established?

The triggers for the PEF Insurance Window were chosen in close coordination with the World Health Organization, based on historical data available for the diseases covered.   

Q.  What were the specific activation criteria for coronavirus/COVID-19?

Outbreak size:

  • The rolling (or ongoing) total case amount had reached 250 or more
  • The total number of fatalities had reached 250 in IDA/IBRD countries
  • At least 12 weeks had passed from the start of the outbreak

The confirmation ratio:  confirmed cases as percentage of total cases had to exceed 20%

Cross-border spread: the outbreak needed to affect more than one country, each having had 20 or more fatalities

Positive growth rate: the total number of cases in IDA/IBRD countries had to be growing at an exponential rate as confirmed by the third-party calculation agent (AIR Worldwide).

Q: When was the growth condition for COVID-19 first satisfied?

The growth condition was first satisfied on March 31, 2020. The growth condition was calculated for each week by AIR Worldwide Corporation, an independent calculation agent, based on WHO data from that week and the immediately following week, and announced in an AIR report released three days after the end of that two-week period. In the case of the trigger, the relevant two-week period was March 31 to April 13, and the report was dated April 16.

Q: How early in the COVID-19 pandemic was the insurance window triggered?

At the time all trigger conditions were met, 4,653 cases, or 0.62% of reported COVID-19 cases globally, were from the world’s poorest countries that are members of the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA).

Q. What was the maximum insurance payout for COVID-19?

The maximum payout for coronavirus was US$195.84 million.

Q: How much in total premiums did donors pay for the insurance window coverage?

Donors paid US$107.2 million in premiums while the insurance window paid out US$195.84 for COVID-19.

Q: How many countries received funding from the PEF insurance window for COVID-19 response?

The PEF Steering Body allocated the entire amount of US$195.84 million to 64 of the world’s lowest income countries that are members of the World Bank’s International Development Association with reported cases of COVID-19 (as on April 22, 2020). Specific funding allocations were determined by population size and reported cases, with a minimum of US$1 million and maximum of US$15 million going to each country, and a heavier weight given to countries classified as fragile or conflict affected. The entire amount of US$195.84 million was transferred to support COVID-19 response activities in these countries.

Q. Did countries or responding agencies need to repay the funds?

No. The funds were grants and did not need to be repaid.

Q. Which international organizations and NGOs received money from the PEF?

The following PEF-accredited international organizations and NGOs received funds from the PEF to support COVID-19 response activities in the 64 countries which were allocated funding from the insurance window for COVID-19: WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, FAO, WFP, IFRC and the World Bank (IBRD and IDA).

Q: Had responding agencies ever received funds from the PEF prior to insurance payout?

The PEF cash window was triggered three times, for the 9th and 10th Ebola outbreaks in the DRC providing $61.4 million to fight the outbreaks (US$11.4 million in 2018 for the 9th outbreak and US$50 million in 2019 for the 10th outbreak). In all instances, and upon request from the DRC government, the funds were transferred directly from the PEF to WHO and UNICEF to support the Ebola response.

Q. What were PEF funds used for?

PEF funds could be used to finance response efforts during COVID-19. This included, but was not limited to, supporting front line health workers, procuring drugs and medicines as well as essential and critical lifesaving medical equipment (including personal protective equipment), non-medical equipment and essential life-saving goods, and supporting logistics and supply chain, minor civil works (such as setting up temporary care centers), services, transportation, communication and coordination, etc.

Q. Could funds be used to finance preparedness?

No. The PEF was a facility to finance surge response. Funds were only made available in times of crises, for countries that were affected by an outbreak. Countries neighboring an affected country, that were not affected by the outbreak themselves, were not eligible to receive PEF funds.

Q. Did the World Bank renew the PEF insurance window?

The World Bank did not renew the PEF insurance window after the pandemic bonds and swaps matured on July 15, 2020.

Q. What was the role of the PEF cash window? Was it used?

The PEF cash window could provide fast financial support to countries fighting disease outbreaks. Funds were transferred within days after approval by the steering body. The PEF paid out US$61.4 million from its cash window to fight the 9th and 10th Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018 and 2019.

Q. What was the role of the PEF insurance window?

The insurance window worked like any other insurance.  It bought protection against a worst-case scenario – in this case, against rapidly growing, cross-border disease outbreaks, with the insured being the poorest countries and premiums being paid by donor countries. To activate payouts from the insurance window, an outbreak had to meet specific, predetermined criteria or triggers.

Q.  Which viruses were covered by the insurance window?

The insurance window covered six viruses most likely to cause a pandemic: new Orthomyxoviruses (new influenza pandemic virus A), Coronaviridae (SARS, MERS, COVID-19), Filoviridae (Ebola, Marburg), and other zoonotic diseases (Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley fever, Lassa fever).

Q. How much insurance was available in the PEF insurance window?

The insurance window provided coverage of up to US$425 million. The insurance was obtained in July 2017 in two classes and in both bond and swap form. Class A was composed of US$225 million in bonds and US$50 million in swaps, and Class B was composed of US$95 million in bonds and US$55 million in swaps. The bonds were issued under the IBRD’s Global Debt Issuance Facility, under the Capital at Risk Notes supplement which was created in 2014 in part to transfer catastrophe risks to the capital markets.

Q. What was the difference between Class A and Class B bonds?

Class A covered flu and coronavirus and Class B covered filovirus, coronavirus, Crimean Congo, Rift Valley and Lassa Fever. Coronavirus was covered by both tranches, with Class A covering coronavirus at a higher level of severity than Class B and for only 16.67% of the class.

Q: Who were the investors in the pandemic bonds?

The investor breakdown and summary terms and conditions for the bonds can be found here.

Q. Which donor countries have supported the PEF?

Australia, Germany and Japan.

Q. What was the PEF’s governance structure?

PEF operations were overseen by a steering body composed of donors (Australia, Germany, Japan), international organizations (including the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the World Bank), and two IDA-eligible countries (currently Haiti and Liberia). Voting members of this body were Australia, Germany and Japan; WHO and the World Bank were non-voting members.

Event Eligibility Notices initiated the formal monitoring of an outbreak to determine its potential eligibility of payment from the insurance window.  Notices were issued in the case of the 2018 Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria, the 10th Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo and COVID-19.

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