BUJUMBURA, 4 May 2021 – The World Bank Group is providing $54.6 million to advance free healthcare for pregnant women and children under five years old in Burundi.
The deal “to support the health system in Burundi” was signed Monday, according to Veronique Kabongo, the WBG’s representative in Burundi.
World Bank Group Board of Executive Directors approved the funding last April 22.
This is additional financing, which includes a grant of $4.6 million from GAVI (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization), will be disbursed to the ongoing Health System Support Project (“KIRA”).
Like the parent project, this additional financing comes from the World Bank fund for the poorest countries, known as IDA (International Development Association).
Its aim is “to increase the use of quality reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health services” in Burundi, according to a World Bank release on the KIRA.
“In the event of an eligible crisis or emergency, a contingent response component will allow for immediate and effective support to the government,” the release adds.
World Bank Country Director for Angola, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Jean-Christophe Carret points to the success of the parent project to justify the additional funding.
KIRA has “significantly improved the use of essential health services, particularly for pregnant women and children under five,” reads a statement on the World Bank website.
Curative consultations for children under five increased under the parent project from 1.6 per inhabitant in 2010 to 2.5 in 2020.
Thanks to the parent project, the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel increased from 60 percent in 2010 to 85 percent in 2017, according to the 2010 and 2017 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS 2010-2017).
The rate of fully immunized children also increased as a result of the project from 83 percent in 2010 to 85 percent in 2017, according to DHS 2010-2017.
Community health workers will receive support under this additional funding which will also extend financing to promote quality training at paramedical schools.
Funding is also going to be extended to the fight against COVID-19.
“KIRA will help improve the capacity of health services to detect [the virus that causes COVID-19] by strengthening laboratory networks in the country,” according to the World Bank release.
It is not clear how the World Bank will work on COVID-19 with a country whose leaders, like the former president of Tanzania, are on record saying they have no intention of importing vaccines and no plan of launching a mass-vaccination campaign to fight the new coronavirus.
The additional funding will also ensure the continuity of targeted activities of the regional Gender-Based Violence project in the provinces of Cibitoke, Makamba, and Muyinga.
It is not clear if part of the funding can be used for importing COVID-19 vaccines, especially given that authorities in Burundi have said they have no plans to vaccinate Burundians against the new coronavirus.
Seventy-four percent of Burundi’s 11.6 million inhabitants – 50.4 percent of them women – live in poverty.
Eighty percent of Burundians are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.