USA – The World Bank’s board has approved creation of a fund meant to finance investments in strengthening the fight against pandemics.

The fund will support prevention, preparedness and response (PPR), with a focus on low- and middle-income countries, the bank said in a statement.

The devastating human, economic, and social cost of COVID-19 has highlighted the urgent need for coordinated action to build stronger health systems and mobilize additional resources,” it said.

The World Bank added that the fund, which it aims to open later this year, was developed under the leadership of the United States, Italy and Indonesia as part of their G20 presidencies, and with broad support from the G20.

It will be used in a number of areas, including disease surveillance, with more than US$1 billion in commitments already announced.

World Bank President David Malpass said in a statement that, “The World Bank is the largest provider of financing for PPR with active operations in over 100 developing countries to strengthen their health systems.”

The so-called financial intermediary fund (FIF) will provide financing to “complement the work of existing institutions in supporting low- and middle-income countries and regions to prepare for the next pandemic,” the World Bank said.

An intermediary fund is a specialized pool of money from varied sources that can be used for public goods.

The fund will support prevention, preparedness and response (PPR), with a focus on low- and middle-income countries.

As the name suggests, the goal is not to directly fund governments, but for the fund to be an intermediary to the implementing agencies.

An example of a more famous of this kind is the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. They often come with their own governance structures and specific mandates.

Where the fund will be channeled

The fund is meant to “bolster” pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. According to the proposal, focus areas include strengthening disease surveillance, the health workforce, laboratory systems, and community engagement.

Other focus areas include emergency communication, coordination, and management at the country level, which are part of the core capacities needed for countries to effectively implement the International Health Regulations.

The fund could also invest in local health systems, support global and regional institutions, and provide technical assistance, according to the bank proposal.

The World Health Organization is a stakeholder in the project and will provide technical expertise, its president Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

US President Joe Biden said more than 1 million Americans and millions of people around the world have lost their lives to COVID-19, underscoring the importance of boosting investment in pandemic preparedness.

When it comes to preparing for the next pandemic, the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action,” Biden said in a statement, adding that “Investing in preparedness now is the right thing and the smart thing to do.

In a separate statement earlier in the day, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called the fund “a major achievement that will help low- and middle-income countries be better prepared for the next pandemic.”

Even as we continue to work to end COVID-19, today’s decision by World Bank shareholders will help bolster capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to future pandemics,” she said.

A spokesperson for the World Bank told AFP that if the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing when the fund is implemented, it could be used to provide support against the current as well as future pandemics.

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