Nelson Gahadza Senior Business Reporter
The World Bank has availed a US$6,68 million grant for Zimbabwe’s response measures in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic under the Zimbabwe Covid Emergency Response Project (ZCERP).
The bank has extended nearly US$1 billion funding assistance to Zimbabwe since independence, including commercial loans which have been temporarily suspended over pending arrears.
Earlier, the global lender said it expected Zimbabwe’s economic growth to strengthen further in 2022, from the bank’s estimate of 5,1 percent, as the negative impacts of Covid-19 subside, rain levels remain good, and implementation of policies outlined in the National Development Strategy (NDS1) accelerates.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube said at the signing ceremony in Harare yesterday the gesture by the World Bank symbolised strong partnership and deepened cooperation with the world wide lender in responding to emergency needs during the Covid- 19 pandemic.
The global pandemic has caused loss of lives and livelihoods throughout Zimbabwe and the rest of the global community.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the World Bank executive directors for approving the grant of US1,575 million from the Energy Sector Management Assistance (ESMAP) on Thursday, 3 March, 2023 which is co-financed by US$5 million from the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Trust Fund (HEPRTF).
“The coming into effect of this grant will go a long way in supporting Government efforts in the deployment and management of Covid – 19 vaccines and strengthening related health systems capacity,” he said.
Minister Ncube said the support came at a time when the Government has already spent over US$122 million on procurement of vaccines from various countries.
He said the Government was committed to continue mobilising additional resources to ensure the target population was fully vaccinated and livelihoods were protected.
He added the Government also appreciated the complementary support received from development partners amounting to US$150 million towards mitigating the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In this context, the World Bank pledged support and disbursed resources amounting to US$7,4 million through reallocations under the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Programme and the Global Financing Facility — Health Sector Development Support Programme towards the Covid-19 response in Zimbabwe.
“Today’s event comes at an important juncture, where we are now witnessing the signing and coming into effect of another Grant agreement amounting to US$6.58 million to further advance our partnership in the fight against the pandemic,” the Finance Minister said.
World Bank country director Ms Mara Warwick said the ZCERP was introduced as an additional layer to the support the World Bank had been providing to the health sector through the Health Sector Development Support Project (HSDSP) and the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP).
“We are pleased to be continuing the partnership with the Government of Zimbabwe, which spans over 11 years, and in collaboration with other development partners to improve the coverage and quality of essential health services in Zimbabwe.
“The HSDSP has, since inception in 2011, focused on accelerating access to quality maternal and child health services through a results-based financing mechanism.
Over time, this programme has been scaled-up and has matured with Zimbabwe advancing in the institutionalization of the RBF approach ahead of many other countries.
“This Government commitment toward improving health service delivery, also reflected in advancements in the country’s procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, is applauded,” she said.
Ms Warwick said both the HSDSP and the ZIRP contributed to the US$7 million that the World Bank channelled as operational support to the health sector in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Ms Warwick, the new project ZCERP, financed by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program and the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Trust Fund, aims to support the Government to deploy and manage Covid-19 vaccines and strengthen related health system capacity.
“ZCERP will provide essential resources to support the deployment of vaccines, improving health system capacity for a sustained and comprehensive pandemic response in Zimbabwe.
“The World Bank recognizes the adverse impacts of Covid-19 on lives and livelihoods and this support will ensure adequate deployment activities including outreach, equipment, training and contribute toward the implementation of a functional system to routinely track equitable vaccination coverage,” she said.
According to Minister Ncube, the project will deliver the Covid – 19 Vaccine deployment strategy through implementation of activities such as the Vaccine deployment and related risk communication and community engagement at a cost of US$3,52 million.
He said climate-friendly related health systems strengthening will get US$1,575 million and overall response coordination and project management, monitoring and evaluation will receive US$1,48 million.