World Bank approves plan to boost health emergency response

Saturday October 14 2023

Employees at the Afrigen biotechnology company and Vaccine Hub facility, work in the manufacturing laboratory in Cape Town, South Africa on October 05, 2021. PHOTO | AFP


The World Bank has given its nod for a programme to enhance the readiness and response to health emergencies in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa.

The Health Emergency Preparedness, Response and Resilience Programme (HEPRR) aims to enhance health security and system capacities by fostering collaboration across regions and sectors and will include the development of a favourable legal and regulatory environment for vaccine and pharmaceutical manufacturing in Kenya, Ethiopia and the Eastern and Southern Africa region.

It is targeted at vulnerable groups like mothers, children, displaced persons, refugees, livestock farmers and individuals affected by zoonotic diseases.

To support the programme, a total of $1 billion in credit and grant financing will be provided, with $359 million allocated for the first phase that will cover Igad countries, Sao Tome and Principe, and the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community, benefiting more than 182 million people.

Read: WHO experts mull Covid-19 emergency status

Climate change impact


HEPRR was developed to address the increasing threats posed by various acute and chronic health emergencies in Africa, including those influenced by climate change.

It will support emergency preparedness and response in national and regional systems enhance health system resilience.

It prioritises a regional approach to address cross-border health issues and aims to bolster regional pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing and logistics capacity to reduce Africa’s dependence on imports.

The programme leverages the World Bank’s partnerships with member countries, regional economic communities and other continental institutions such as the Africa CDC.

HEPRR will support the development of a favourable legal and regulatory environment for vaccine and pharmaceutical manufacturing in Kenya, Ethiopia, and the Eastern and Southern Africa region, in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency.

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“In the aftermath of Covid-19, and in the face of persistent shocks to health service delivery, these resources will be vital to countries to strengthen their health emergency preparedness and response, revitalise their health systems, and enhance health service delivery to direct beneficiaries at country and regional levels,” said World Bank’s Regional Integration Director for Africa and the Middle East, Boutheina Guermazi.

Ramesh Govindaraj, the World Bank lead specialist for Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice, expressed optimism about the programme’s potential to enable African countries emerge as leaders in health emergency response.

“The HEPPR can be a catalyst for African countries to learn from global experiences and leapfrog other regions in combating health emergencies regionally,” said Govindaraj.