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World Bank Group headquarters in Washingston, DC, USA. (File photo)

World Bank’s response to COVID-19 in the Caribbean

World Bank Group headquarters in Washingston, DC, USA. (File photo)

Editor’s note: The World Bank’s focus on a cross-cutting approach for building resilience in the Caribbean is more important now than ever. In this article, the bank highlights its work with member countries in the Caribbean to help them respond to coronavirus (COVID-19) and prepare for a sustainable economic recovery.

What is the World Bank doing to support the Caribbean’s response to COVID-19?

The World Bank is bringing financing and knowledge support to help countries address the health threat and the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. Financing for immediate health response comes from the global COVID-19 Fast-Track Facility, by triggering contingent financing mechanisms like Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Options (CAT DDOs), and by quickly and flexibly reallocating existing project resources to support COVID-19 response.

(Photo: WIC News)

Initial support has focused primarily on the health impact of the crisis. The World Bank has helped countries procure essential supplies to detect, contain, and treat COVID-19, strengthen health systems, and expand social protection for vulnerable groups.

The World Bank is now moving to its next phase of support, helping countries address the social, economic, and financial impacts of the crisis and prepare for a resilient and sustainable recovery.

Which Caribbean countries are included in the COVID-19 response?

Financing for COVID-19 response has been provided in the following countries: DominicaDominican RepublicGrenadaHaitiSaint LuciaSurinameSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesTrinidad and Tobagoand Belize.

What is being done for each country to address the impacts of COVID-19?

Dominica

The World Bank activated US$6.6 million to provide immediate funding for Dominica’s emergency response, focusing on enhancing health system capacity and strengthening food security. 

A view of the capital of Dominica, Roseau. (Photo: Global Partnership for Education)

US$5.1 million will be used to bolster the capacity of Dominica’s public health system to manage COVID-19. Funds will be available to purchase drugs, medical supplies and equipment, and laboratory supplies to boost testing capacity and for minor retrofitting of isolation units.  

Another US$1.5 million will be used to support agriculture and strengthen national food security during the pandemic. The intervention is targeted to reach an estimated 3,200 farmers to ensure that the local food supply chains are better able to meet the needs of the island.

These funds were accessed through the Contingent Emergency Response Components of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Regional Health Project and the Emergency Agricultural Livelihoods and Climate Resilience Project.

The flag of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (File photo)

On June 26, additional financing of US$3 million was approved for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Regional Health Project in Dominica. This replenishes funds that were redirected for emergency purposes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On June 30, additional financing of US$3.6 million was approved for the Dominica Emergency Agricultural Livelihoods and Climate Resilience Project to restore funds that were used in the COVID-19 emergency response and support food security and climate resilience objectives.

Products made from Dominica’s agro-processing sector (Photo: DaVibes)

In August, the World Bank activated US$5.2 million in funds through the CERC component of the Dominica Housing Recovery Project to provide income support to people economically affected by the COVID-19 crisis who meet set criteria. Grants will be distributed to over 7,000 Dominicans under the Government’s Livelihood Support and Social Protection Programme.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has activated at the end of March 2020, the Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option (CAT DDO) from the Disaster Risk Management Development Policy Loan with a CAT DDO.

This US$150 million contingency credit line will help the country implement emergency measures to contain the spread and manage health and economic impacts.

On June 18, the World Bank approved US$100 million to support the response to the COVID-19 emergency in the Dominican Republic. This financing will help improve the capacity of the health system, support the most vulnerable population, and reduce the financial burden on businesses and poor households.

An aerial view of Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic. (Photo: IFC)

Grenada

The World Bank activated US$2.5 million to support Grenada’s response, which will be used to strengthen the health sector response.

The financing will be used to purchase critical supplies, including personal protective equipment for health care workers, medical equipment, laboratory equipment and tests, and goods and services to enhance preparedness and surveillance systems at ports of entry. The funds will also be used for the retrofitting of isolation areas, including a mobile unit, and the procurement of an oxygen generation plant.

These funds were accessed through the Contingent Emergency Response Component of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Regional Health Project.

Grenada Development Bank (Photo: Grenada Development Bank)

On June 26, additional financing of US$2.5 million was approved for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Regional Health Project in Grenada. This replenishes funds that were redirected for emergency purposes related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saint Lucia

The World Bank activated US$10.5 million to support the country’s COVID-19 response. These funds will strengthen Saint Lucia’s efforts to address the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.  

This financing will help increase testing capabilities, build isolation units, and enhance public information campaigns to assist with awareness and prevention. It will also support the rehabilitation of Victoria Hospital and other medical facilities, creating employment through the associated labour-intensive civil works that will also enhance infrastructure resilience.

These funds were accessed under the Contingency Emergency Response Components of the Saint Lucia Health System Strengthening Project and the Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project

An aerial view of Castries, the capital of St Lucia (Photo: LinkedIn: Invest St Lucia)

On June 26, additional financing of US$5 million was approved for the Health System Strengthening Project in Saint Lucia. This replenishes funds that were redirected for emergency purposes related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The World Bank activated US$4.5 million to provide immediate funding for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ response, aimed at strengthening the capacity of the health system.  

The financing will be used to improve the ability to isolate patients, increase testing capacity, and purchase critical supplies, including personal protective equipment, mobile isolation units, testing equipment, reagents, gloves, and masks. It will also support preparedness and response capacity for other public health emergencies by increasing access to medical equipment and expanding the capacity of hospitals.

An aerial view of Kingstown, the capital of St Vincent and the Grenadines. (File photo)

These funds were accessed under the Contingency Emergency Response Component of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Regional Health Project.

On June 26, additional financing of US$4.5 million was approved for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Regional Health Project in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. This replenishes funds that were redirected for emergency purposes related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suriname

The World Bank activated US$412,000 to purchase essential medical supplies in Suriname for emergency response.

As part of its rapid response at the onset of the pandemic, Suriname benefitted from this World Bank financing to procure and distribute personal protective equipment and medical supplies to key hospitals handling COVID-19 cases.

Waterkent in the capital of a Paramaribo, Suriname (Photo: Black Past)

The funds were mobilised under the Saramacca Canal System Rehabilitation Project using the Contingency Emergency Response Component.

Haiti

The World Bank is supporting several key initiatives in Haiti to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to emergency health financing, support is being provided to economic recovery, resilience, and safety nets for the vulnerable population.

Trinidad and Tobago

The World Bank approved US$20 million for a project that aims to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen national systems for public health preparedness. The financing will support procurement of key medical supplies needed for testing and diagnosis, inputs for infection prevention and control in health facilities, and personal protective equipment for staff.

An aerial view of Port of Spain Trinidad and Tobago. (Photo: london.ac.uk)

Support will also be provided for the health system to bolster capacity to manage future infections and provide training on appropriate clinical care and safe waste disposal.

Financing for this project is from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as part of the COVID-19 Fast-Track Facility offered to help countries worldwide face this pandemic.

Belize

An aerial view of a section of Belize city. (Photo: International Environments)

The World Bank activated US$12.4 million to provide social protection support to poor and vulnerable households affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The financing will support poverty reduction social protection programmes to assist over 13,000 households in need. This response particularly targets households with pregnant women, children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.

These funds were mobilised under the Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC) of the Climate Resilience Improvement Project.