The World Bank has fast-tracked the approval of $50 million USD in loan financing for the Myanmar COVID-19 Emergency Response Project, fast-tracked by its facility as part of global emergency support operations.
The funds will be prioritized for the upgrading of Intensive Care Units (ICU) at selected hospitals including all eight central level hospitals and 43 sub-division level hospitals across all states and regions.
A portion of the loan will also be channeled into capacity building of health staff and officials and community engagement activities throughout the country.
“This fast-track financing will help Myanmar fill a critical gap in its contingency plan to urgently increase hospital preparedness and surge capacity in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, protect health workers, and minimize the severity of illness and associated deaths,” said Mariam Sherman, World Bank country director for Myanmar, Cambodia and Lao PDR, in a press statement.
The implementation of the emergency response project will begin at areas with the highest risk, such as densely populated areas and areas with frequent travel and migration, and gradually expand to other areas in different phases.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Myanmar, the World Bank has also mobilized funds under the Myanmar Essential Health Services Access Project that went online in 2015 with the financial institution’s financing. The funds have been directed to assist operational costs to intensify surveillance and testing activities in all states and regions and communications with local health staffs and ethnic health organisations.
Myanmar has seen confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus quickly increased to 119 since the first case was recorded on March 23. Among the 119 cases, there have been five deaths and seven have subsequently recovered.
The government said in early April that it was mulling the possibilities of monetary support from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The World Bank has pledged up to $160 billion for countries in need of financial support over the next 15 months, while the IMF has dedicated all of its $1 trillion lending capacity.
The emergency financing for Myanmar is part of the World Bank’s first group of projects, amounting to $1.9 billion and covering 25 countries in the developing world.
“The broader economic programme will aim to shorten the time to recovery, create conditions for growth, support small and medium enterprises, and help protect the poor and vulnerable,” the World Bank said in a statement in early April.