Africa gets a $1 billion to boost health systems, emergency preparedness and response

The World Bank approved the Health Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Resilience Program (HEPRR) which, over the course of two to three phases, is expected to drastically improve multisectoral preparedness and response to health emergencies in Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa. In the first phase alone, the program is expected to reach more than 182 million people, with the number of beneficiaries increasing substantially over the next seven years as additional countries and implementing partners join.

The program provides $1 billion in credit and grant financing, with $359 million provided under phase 1 which covers Ethiopia, Kenya, Sao Tome and Principe, the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA-HC) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The program will foster strong regional and multisectoral collaboration for robust health security and health system capacities that will benefit specifically vulnerable groups such as mothers, children, and disadvantaged populations, including internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees.

In addition, due to the One Health (a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach — working at the local, regional, national, and global levels — with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes, recognizing the interconnection between people and nature) focus of the HEPRR Program, beneficiaries also include livestock farmers and those exposed to zoonotic diseases.

“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, revitalize their health systems, and enhance health service delivery to direct beneficiaries at country and regional levels,” said Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank Regional Integration Director for Africa and the Middle East.

It will also focus on developing regional pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing and logistical capacities, premised on a strong regulatory ecosystem and a reliable market ecosystem, which is imperative to addressing Africa’s reliance of on imports.

The HEPRR was designed to address the persistent and increasing threats from various acute and chronic health emergencies in Africa (including communicable and non-communicable diseases, some of which are being brought on by climate change) and the need for renewed multisectoral approaches to better mitigate against negative human capital/health outcomes. The program will provide support for national and regional systems for health emergency preparedness and response to work in tandem with those strengthening health system resilience. It will prioritize a regional approach, led by African institutions, given the many public goods/cross border issues involved in health emergency preparedness, response, and resilience.

With extensive multisectoral policy engagements at the national level, the HEPRR Program ensures that country and regional investments complement other public investments, exploit synergies, and minimize duplication of efforts with other development partners. The program will provide multisectoral platforms for cross-country collaboration, tapping into the World Bank’s established partnerships with member countries, regional economic communities (RECs), development partners, and other continental institutions focusing on preparedness and response, such as the Africa CDC.

The HEPPR can be a catalyst for African countries to learn from global experiences and leapfrog other regions in combating health emergencies regionally. I am particularly pleased that African institutions will be leading the charge in this effort.”

Ramesh Govindaraj, World Bank Lead Specialist, Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice.

Specific efforts to strengthen links with the private sector include the HEPRR Program’s support for developing an enabling legal and regulatory environment for vaccine and pharmaceutical manufacturing in Kenya, Ethiopia, and the Eastern and Southern Africa region in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). Other partners include the United Nations agencies and the bilateral agencies that are supporting health systems strengthening and health emergencies preparedness and response efforts.

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