Juba, South Sudan,
May 17, 2021 — A health expert has voiced concerns over the funding mechanisms implemented by the World Bank in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries and South Sudan in particular.
Rosalind McKenna, a team manager in the financing division at the Open Society Foundation’s Public Health Programme, criticized the World Bank for defaulting on its $12 billion pledge to weather the impact of the pandemic.
“The World Bank promised to contribute $12 billion. But details of its pledge are getting lost, raising the risk that this much-needed money will be wasted for lack of scrutiny,” McKenna wrote in an opinion piece published on The Jordan Times.
Her remarks came a day after the South Sudan government through the Ministry of Health downsized the COVID-19 Rapid Response Team citing lack of funding.
The country procured 192,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine in April. But 60,000 doses, first flown into the country by MTN and the African CDC, expired within the same month with no inoculation done.
With only 9000 people getting their first jab, South Sudan has just 23,000 doses of vaccine left. As its expiry date approaches in July and with the recent downsizing of the COVID-19 Rapid Response Team, the rate of testing, contact tracing, and vaccine inoculation remains low.
Mckenna says in time when vaccine producers were backtracking on their promise to supply vaccines on a not-for-profit basis, intervention by the World Bank is becoming more urgent in the low and middle-income economy.
“In making $12 billion available for vaccine procurement and deployment, it remains unclear what steps the World Bank is taking to make vaccine manufacturers share the technology and know-how to ramp up global production,” she wrote.
The expert says the leading global financial institution always lacked grant-issuing mechanisms, this, he says, has led to graft among political elites – disenfranchising the vulnerable who need such funding the most.
“The World Bank is still struggling to explain how it plans to ensure that its expenditure is transparent, or ensure that countries abide by plans to get vaccines to priority populations.
“As the World Bank knows, poor program design and flawed vaccine rollouts can lead to exorbitant costs and unfair outcomes,” McKenna said.
Nyamilepedia made email inquiries to the World Bank South Sudan Monday on the status of the pledge but Gelila Woodeneh, the Communication Officer said “Thank you for your email. Our office is closed for the Eid holiday.”
Meanwhile, an insider from the South Sudan Doctors’ Union warned that if more than half of the procured doses of vaccine expire, South Sudan will lose the already waning confidence and support of donors.
“We do not know if we will have the support to deliver the second dose. You and I know the government does not have money to buy vaccines,” the source said anonymously.
South Sudan has 10 states. None has received the Covid-19 vaccination center. In the capital, Juba, there are only three centers: Juba Teaching Hospital, Juba Military Hospital, and Police Hospital.
The source says the Ministry of Health has no plans to take the vaccines to states thanks to lack of funds. It is depending, as always, on donors to support vaccine transportation and training of vaccinators at the state level.