COVID-19: How the World Bank is helping countries procure critical medical supplies

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In these dire circumstances, the World Bank is stepping up its support and offering a new procurement option to help countries access critically needed medical supplies. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
In these dire circumstances, the World Bank is stepping up its support and offering a new procurement option to help countries access critically needed medical supplies. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

In the global crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19), the World Bank is helping client countries respond. The World Bank Group will deploy up to $160 billion over the next 15 months to support COVID-19 measures that will help countries respond to immediate health consequences of the pandemic, support households, and firms, and bolster economic recovery. Our first package of fast-track emergency health financing launched on April 2, 2020, and we are working with our borrowers as they move to implement emergency projects. A key component of this implementation is client access to critical medical equipment and supplies.

As the pandemic spreads, stocks of personal protective equipment and medical devices are depleting rapidly around the world.

Manufacturers of medical supplies are increasing production, but demand is far outstripping supply. As the pandemic spreads, stocks of personal protective equipment and medical devices are depleting rapidly around the world.  In many places, they are not available at all. Speed is of the essence as delivery times are increasing. Deals to acquire supplies are available only for a short time before the whole opportunity, or at least the place in line to receive the goods, is lost to another buyer. The logistics of delivering supplies is also extremely challenging. Air cargo capacity is maxing out, with options narrowing to a few flights. In some cases, suppliers are resorting to sea and land transport as air freight is limited, very expensive, or unreliable.

What can the World Bank do in this situation of market disruption?

First, the World Bank Procurement Framework provides borrowers the ability to expedite procurement of the goods and services needed for emergency response. At the same time, the demand for medical provisions is so acute and immediate right now that we must think more creatively and find new ways to help our clients.

And second, in these dire circumstances, we are stepping up our support and offering a new procurement option to help countries access critically needed medical supplies. It is called Bank Facilitated Procurement. In addition to procuring medical supplies and equipment on their own with streamlined procedures, or ordering them through a UN agency, governments can now also ask the Bank to facilitate their access to global suppliers and negotiate prices and other conditions on their behalf. It is important to note that this service is only available for the procurement of medical equipment and supplies under the COVID-19 health emergency response.

In these dire circumstances, we are stepping up our support and offering a new procurement option to help countries access critically needed medical supplies.

We can do this on the basis of aggregated demand across all borrowers, whenever possible, and while conducting extensive market research. The World Bank plays a facilitator role. We charge no additional fees. We do not act as legal agents for our clients and do not sign any contracts. The responsibility for these decisions remains with our borrowers. But while staying within our operational boundaries, we are supporting our borrowers throughout the procurement process. Borrowers also remain responsible for logistics, but we offer them hands-on help with the necessary arrangements.

The World Bank plays a facilitator role. We charge no additional fees. We do not act as legal agents for our clients and do not sign any contracts.

We have reached out to over 3,000 suppliers and have sent countries detailed offers for goods worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Thus far, our borrowers have told us they want to order approximately 100 million worth of equipment and supplies. Contracts for these confirmed orders have been agreed with the suppliers and are being sent to multiple countries for their signature.

The first contract with our facilitation was signed for 250 ventilators for Kenya, and the first shipment has reached the government. Four other contracts have now been signed by Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe, Comoros, and Lesotho. Several additional contracts are expected over the next weeks.

The risks posed by the pandemic are high, with life disrupted in almost all parts of the world. We believe that in these extraordinary times when speed and access to the market are critical, our borrowers need this additional support. Indeed, not being able to secure critically needed medical supplies and equipment is one of the most significant risks they face as they mobilize for a health emergency.

The Bank is moving swiftly and proactively to help our borrowers. We will continue making sure we do everything we can for those who need our help most.

  • ENZO DE LAURENTIIS
  • https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/covid-19-how-world-bank-helping-countries-procure-critical-medical-supplies
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