World Bank grants Samoa $12.75 million to fight coronavirus
The World Bank has delivered US$5.1 million ($12.75 million tala) in immediate funding to support Samoa’s response to the global coronavirus pandemic.
The funds will support Samoa’s efforts to prepare and manage its response to the virus which has been spreading around the world at a rapid rate.
The World Bank announced the funding in a statement issued late on Friday local time.
Samoa currently has no confirmed coronavirus cases; however, a State of Emergency is now in place across the country.
The Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, said the safety of the people is the Cabinet’s sole priority.
“Protecting Samoan people from [coronavirus] is our absolute priority," he said.
“While we remain fortunate that we currently have no confirmed cases of [coronavirus] in Samoa, it is critical that we are as prepared as possible.
"This support from the World Bank will be an essential part of these preparations and will ensure we can respond swiftly in the event of a confirmed case".
World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, Michel Kerf, said the World Bank stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Samoa, and with the ,Pacific region at this time of need.
“This funding is the first in a series of support that our team is now working to deliver in Samoa and across the Pacific in response to the unprecedented challenge of [the coronavirus]," Mr. Kerf said.
According to the statement, the funding has been made available through a Development Policy Operation with a Catastrophe-Deferred Drawdown Option, approved in 2018.
The measure ensures emergency funding from the World Bank that can be drawn upon in the event of a major national emergency.
“The option was used by Samoa following [the measles epidemic that] infected approximately 5600 people and killed 83 people, with infants and young children the most affected," Mr. Kerf said.
Earlier this month, the World Bank Group announced a US$14 billion package to support a global response to the pandemic of the virus also known as COVID-19.
“The package supports developing countries to strengthen health systems, including improving access to health services to safeguard people from the epidemic, strengthen disease surveillance, bolster public health interventions, and work with the private sector to reduce the impact on economies," Mr. Kerf said.
“The World Bank is now working to provide urgent support to Pacific countries through this package.
"The program will enable Samoa to improve the quality and efficiency of its health system, including the ability to prevent outbreaks of communicable diseases and stem the rise of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes."
Last December the Bank committed US$9.3 million to strengthen Samoa’s health systems over the coming years through the Samoa Health System Strengthening Program.