The African Development Bank (AfDB) said Wednesday it has approved around 208 million Kenyan shillings (about 2 million U.S. dollars) in emergency assistance for the World Health Organization (WHO) to strengthen its capacity to help African countries contain the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impacts.
AfDB said WHO Africa region will use the funds to bolster the capacity of 41 African countries on infection prevention, testing and case management.
"This grant will enable regional member countries to put in place robust containment measures within 48 hours of COVID-19 case confirmation and also support the WHO Africa region to disseminate information and increase public awareness in communities," the Bank's human capital youth and skills development department said in a statement.
The lender said the assistance, which is in response to an international appeal by the WHO, will be used by the world body to equip regional member countries to prevent, rapidly detect, investigate, contain and manage detected cases of COVID-19.
It said the assistance is one part of several AfDB interventions to help member countries address the pandemic which, though slow to arrive in Africa, is spreading quickly and is straining already fragile health systems.
"WHO Africa will also boost surveillance systems, procure and distribute laboratory test kits and reagents, and support coordination mechanisms at national and regional levels," said AfDB.
It said the grant will contribute toward a 50-million-dollar WHO Preparedness and Response Plan, which other partners including the United Nations system, are also supporting.
It is estimated that Africa will require billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the disease as many countries scramble together contingency measures, including commercial lockdowns, in efforts to contain it.
AfDB said it will unveil a financial assistance package that will enable governments and businesses to undertake flexible responses to lessen the economic and social impact of this pandemic.