World Bank sets up insurance fund to allow rapid response to pandemics

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group

An emergency insurance fund worth up to US$500m has been established by the World Bank Group to assist developing countries in the event of a pandemic.

The Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) was launched on 21 May 2016, with a commitment from Japan to contribute US$50m towards the initiative. The world’s poorest countries will be able to benefit from insurance against pandemics through the PEF, which will be funded by the World Bank Group’s development partners. Up to US$500m will be released in the event of a disease outbreak that meets the criteria set out by the fund, which has been established with help from the World Health Organization.

“For the first time we will have a system that can move funding and teams of experts to the sites of outbreaks before they spin out of control,” says Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group. “This facility addresses a long, collective failure in dealing with pandemics. The Ebola crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone taught all of us that we must be much more vigilant to outbreaks and respond immediately to save lives and also to protect economic growth.”

The World Bank Group, which provides financial assistance to developing countries, says that had the PEF existed prior to the Ebola epidemic, up to US$100m could have been released as early as July 2014. In reality, money only began flowing in three months later at which point Ebola cases had increased tenfold. Insurance cover will be provided to help contain outbreaks of infectious diseases most likely to cause major epidemics, such as pandemic influenza viruses and middle-east respiratory syndrome coronaviruses.

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The Pharmaceutical Journal, World Bank sets up insurance fund to allow rapid response to pandemics;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201198