The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced a new partnership on Friday to address urgent COVID-19 needs and strengthen primary health care in 10 African countries.
More broadly, the cooperation seeks to strengthen public health, supply of essential equipment, training and hygiene investment in countries most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will also accelerate investment in health preparedness and primary health care with a focus on health work force, infrastructure, and water, sanitation and hygiene. The initiative involves measures to address the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance.
The EIB is a long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for investment to contribute towards EU policy goals.
The new partnership between the United Nations health agency and the world’s largest international public bank was announced at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on Friday.
“Combining the public health experience of the World Health Organization and the financial expertise of the European Investment Bank will contribute to a more effective response to COVID-19 and other pressing health challenges,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
“WHO looks forward to strengthening cooperation with the EIB to improve access to essential supplies including medical equipment and training, and deliver better water, sanitation and hygiene where most needed. New initiatives to improve primary health care in Africa and support the EU Malaria Fund hint at the potential impact of our new partnership,” Dr Tedros added.
In a statement, the President of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer said as the world faces unprecedented health, social and economic shocks from COVID-19, “the European Investment Bank is pleased to join forces with the World Health Organization as a key part of Team Europe’s efforts to address the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The EU Bank’s new partnership with the WHO will help communities most at risk by scaling up local medical and public health efforts and better protect people around the world from future pandemics. This new cooperation will enable us to combat malaria, address anti-microbial resistance and enhance public health in Africa more effectively.”
Read details of the partnership below as released by the WHO
Improving local public health efforts to tackle coronavirus
The WHO and the EIB will increase cooperation to help governments in low- and middle-income countries to finance and secure access to essential medical supplies and protective equipment through central procurement.
Building resilient health systems in vulnerable countries across Africa
The WHO and the EIB will reinforce cooperation to support immediate COVID-19 needs and jointly develop targeted financing to enhance health investment and build resilient health systems and primary health care to address public health emergencies as well as accelerate progress towards Universal Health Coverage.
The partnership will benefit from the EIB’s planned 1.4 billion EUR response to address the health, social and economic impact of COVID-19 in Africa.
This will address immediate needs in the health sector and provide both technical assistance and support for medium-term investment in specialist health infrastructure.
The collaboration envisages rapid identification and fast-track approval of financing for health care, medical equipment and supplies.
The first phase of the collaboration will see public health investment in ten African countries.
Long-term collaboration to overcome market failures in global health
The agreement signed today establishes a close collaboration to overcome market failure and stimulate investments in global health, accelerating progress towards Universal Health Coverage. Increased cooperation between the WHO and the EIB will strengthen the resilience of national public health systems and enhance preparedness of vulnerable countries against future pandemics, thanks to investments in primary care infrastructure, health workers and improved water, sanitation and hygiene.
Future cooperation will strengthen the EIB’s 5.2 billion EUR global response to COVID-19 outside the European Union.
Scaling up investment to tackle antimicrobial resistance
The two organisations will also cooperate in an initiative to address investment barriers hindering development of new antimicrobial treatment and related diagnostics. Antimicrobial resistance is amongst the most significant global health threats.
The WHO and the EIB are working on a new financing initiative to support development of novel antimicrobials and address the estimated 1 billion EUR needed to provide medium-term solutions to antimicrobial resistance. Other crucial partners have been invited to join this discussion.
Improving the effectiveness of malaria treatment
Under the new agreement the EIB and WHO will support development of the EU Malaria Fund, a new 250 million EUR public-private initiative intended to address market failures holding back more effective malaria treatment.
Strengthening EIB support for healthcare, life science and COVID-19 investment
In recent years the European Investment Bank has provided more than 2 billion EUR annually for health care and life science investment.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EIB is currently assessing over 20 projects in the field of vaccine development, diagnostic and treatment, leading to potential investments in the 700 million EUR range. The EIB will also take part in the EU’s rolling pledging effort for the coronavirus global response that is taking place on May 4th.