World Bank unveils M135 million Covid-19 credit for Lesotho

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Bereng Mpaki

THE World Bank yesterday granted Lesotho a M135 million credit that will be used in the country’s fight against the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Although there was no indication on how the credit would be repaid, the World Bank yesterday said it had approved a US$7, 5 million (approximately M135 million) loan to Lesotho to respond to the virus.

To date, Lesotho has recorded just two cases of Covid-19 although fears are that the numbers could soon shoot up given the increase in cases in neighbouring South Africa had by yesterday recorded over 24 200 cases and over 500 deaths. Global cases have surpassed 5, 7 million and over 350 000 deaths.

Fears are that Lesotho could soon record a spike in cases given the increase in the number of Basotho who are crossing into the country through illegal borders from South Africa.

The World Bank said the funds would support “Lesotho’s efforts to mitigate the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and provide immediate support to containment and treatment strategies”.

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Elita Banda from the World Bank said the loan would “support the Lesotho National Integrated Response Plan to the Covid-19 pandemic by financing critical interventions such as epidemiological investigations for contract tracing, screening travellers at ports of entry, expanding infection prevention and control at health facilities”.

It is also expected to fund surge response capacity, equipping frontline health workers with personal protective equipment, as well as goods and equipment to strengthen Lesotho’s efforts to test for Covid-19.

“World Bank Group has approved a US$7, 5 million credit from the International Development Association (IDA) to support Lesotho’s efforts to prevent, detect and respond to the global Covid-19 pandemic under a new project, the Lesotho Covid-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response project,” Ms Banda said in the statement.

The emergency project will help establish and enhance isolation and treatment capacity for patients, and provision of psychosocial support, and support the implementation of personal hygiene promotion, handwashing and sanitation practices, as well as production and dissemination of risk communication materials to engage communities.

For her part, World Bank country director for Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, Namibia and South Africa, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly said they were also committed to assisting Lesotho to protect members of society who vulnerable due to Covid-19.

“Working together with other development partners, the World Bank Group is committed to moving quickly to assist the government in its Covid-19 response to save lives and protect the livelihoods of the people of Lesotho, particularly the most vulnerable in society,” Ms Marie-Nelly said.

Contacted for comment, Minister of Finance Thabo Sofonea said he was yet to receive the information about the credit as he has been busy preparing the budget.

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