Gov’t Wants World Bank to Refocus COVID Money Amid Low-Risk Perception

Uganda performed lowest among the up to eighty countries that received money from the World Bank meant to support their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Dr. Rogers Ayiko, a Senior Health Specialist at the World Bank,  the bank set aside US$ 157 billion dollars was to support the countries in their response and emergency preparedness. 

Different sectors benefited from the funding. Speaking at the Uganda COVID-19 Response and Emergency Preparedness Project (UCREPP) Mid-Term Review workshop on Monday, Ayiko said while Uganda recieved US$195.5million dollars (about Shs712billion), the country disbursed only 50% of the money. With this, he says Uganda’s project has performed below its peers.

The money was meant to among others finance COVID-19 case detection, confirmation, contact tracing, case management, and provide sufferers with psycho-social support. Also, the money was meant to help with the purchase of vaccines and deployment, in addition to ensuring the continuity of the provision of essential health services.

According to Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health (MOH), while this money was meant to finance COVID-19-related work, they diverted it to cater for wider public health emergencies like the recent Ebola Outbreak, malaria and interventions related to halting the spread of Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever.

She said it wasn’t making sense for them to continue pouring money into COVID-19 when the risk had greatly reduced. She added that some of the money was used to put in place intensive care units and to purchase Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines which are still in stock to date.

With the review meeting, Atwine says they want to ask the World Bank to allow them to refocus the money on identified areas of the health system that need critical attention now. She said they need to strengthen laboratories and improve health infrastructure in the refugee communities.

However, in her remarks, the World Bank Country Manager Mukami Kariuki said they are closing new funding towards COVID-19 later this year in September as they want to focus more on projects geared towards human capital development.

She said later on, in their country’s partnership framework they will need to hear from all their stakeholders to determine priority areas for funding.

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