In a statement issued, the World Bank Group said the 100 countries it has supported so far are home to 70% of the world’s population.

Since March 2020, the World Bank has given several supports to help countries protect the poor and vulnerable, reinforce health systems, maintain the private sector, and bolster economic recovery.

This is the largest and fastest crisis response in the Bank Group’s history.

World Bank Group President David Malpass said: “The pandemic and shutdown of advanced economies could push as many as 60 million people into extreme poverty – erasing much of the recent progress made in poverty alleviation.”

“The World Bank Group has moved quickly and decisively to establish emergency response operations in 100 countries, with mechanisms that allow other donors to rapidly expand the programs. To return to growth, our goal must be rapid, flexible responses to tackle the health emergency, provide cash and other expandable support to protect the poor, maintain the private sector, and strengthen economic resilience and recovery,” he added.

The breakdown of the benefitting countries shows that 39 are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

About one-third of the total supports are in fragile and conflict-affected situations, such as Afghanistan, Chad, Haiti, and Niger.

The support which is the form of grants, loans, and equity investments “will be supplemented by the suspension of bilateral debt service, as endorsed by the Bank’s governors. IDA-eligible countries that request forbearance on their official bilateral debt payments will have more financial resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and fund critical, lifesaving emergency responses.”

“The bilateral debt-service suspension being offered will free up crucial resources for IDA countries to fund emergency responses to COVID-19,” said Malpass. “Nations should move quickly to substantially increase the transparency of all their governments’ financial commitments. This will increase the confidence in the investment climate and encourage more beneficial debt and investment in the future.”

The Bank Group’s operations in 100 countries are to save lives, protect livelihoods, build resilience, and boost recovery by:

“Strengthening health systems, monitoring, and prevention, particularly in low-income countries and in fragile and conflict-affected situations. The Bank Group’s health response addresses emergency containment and mitigation needs for COVID-19, including strengthening countries’ health systems to treat severe cases and save lives. Establishing and supporting efforts in fragile and conflict-affected situations is a priority, given the rapidly growing number of cases in some of these countries.”

Already some disbursements are underway. Senegal to receive $20 million and $35 million to Ghana, “which includes funding to strengthen disease surveillance systems, public health laboratories, and epidemiological capacity for early detection. A $20 million IDA grant was approved for Haiti that aims to enhance testing, minimize spread through contact tracing of confirmed cases, and provide laboratory and protective equipment for health care staff.”

The Bank Group is also helping countries access critically needed supplies and equipment, for example, by identifying interested suppliers and negotiating prices and conditions.