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World Bank approves US$9m Liberian health sector

By Lewis S. Teh

The World Bank on Monday approved US$ 9 million in funding for the Liberian health sector, a portion of which is to be used for the vaccination of 70% of Liberians across the country.

Minister of Finance Samuel D. Tweah and Health Minister Dr. Whilhemina Jallah represented the Government of Liberia at the ceremony which was led by World Bank Country Manager to Liberia, Dr. Khwima Nthara. The financing agreement is also expected to strengthen the country’s health sector.

Speaking at the official signing ceremony on Monday, July 4, 2022 at the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, Dr. Nthara said the Financing Agreement with the Government of Liberia will focus on two projects: Liberia Women Empowerment in the amount of US$ 44.6 million of which US$17.8 million is an IDA Grant and US$26.8 million is an IDA credit.

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He said the second is additional financing to the Covid-19 emergency response project in the amount of US$9 million of which US$6.2 million is in IDA Grant and US$2.8 million is an IDA credit.

The World Bank Country Manager explained that the second phase of the Covid-19 emergency response seeks to consolidate the gains Liberia has made in fighting the pandemic.

“You will recall that Liberia reported its first Covid-19 case on March 16, 2020, and within three months the World Bank board approved the first Liberia emergency response project in the amount of US$7.50 million”, Dr. Nthara said.

He noted that the first additional financing in the amount of US$8.00 million was approved on June 30, 2021, saying “This second financing agreement we are signing today in the amount of US$9 million was approved on June 30, 2022.”

He continued that under the Covid-19 emergency response project, a total of US$24.5 million has been extended to Liberia and that besides, the Bank had repurposed US$9.5 million under the Regional Disease Surveillance Project, bringing the total financing package to the health response under Covid-19 to US$34 million.

This second financing according to him, seeks to support development of additional vaccines to help vaccinate about 70 percent of Liberian population in a bid to strengthen the country’s vaccination system and preparedness.

He said this includes acquisition of additional cold chain equipment for proper vaccine storage and handling, such as refrigerators, and trucks, to ensure an effective rollout of Covid-19 vaccines now that the target population has been expanded to include 12-17 years old.

Dr. Nthara said the Bank had also contributed about US$23 million to non-health responses such as the Nationwide Food Distribution Program and recovery of economic activities in minimizing the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

In response, Liberia’s Health Minister Dr. Whilhemina Jallah thanked the World Bank for living up to its commitment.

Dr. Jallah disclosed that Covid-19 cases in Liberia have dropped significantly, and the country is at 54 percent of the WHO’s  70 percent benchmark.

“But our target that we set at the ministry is at 70% and we’re hoping over the next two weeks Liberia will pass the WHO benchmark”, she added.

She said the ministry will spend portion of the money on Covid-19 vaccines and logistics rollout in order to meet the WHO benchmark, “we have to reach out to the citizens to vaccinate them and this requires resources.” Editing by Jonathan Browne

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