HARARE (Reuters) – The World Bank will grant $7 million to Zimbabwe to help it fight the new coronavirus outbreak that is expected to worsen an already struggling economy and food crisis, a bank spokesman said on Wednesday.
Zimbabwe is more than $1.2 billion in arrears to the World Bank, African Development Bank and European Investment Bank, making it ineligible for funding or debt forgiveness from global lenders.
The World Bank spokesman said that while Zimbabwe and other countries indebted to the lender could not access regular financing, they could get money from its trust funds to fight the coronavirus that has slowed down the global economy.
“The bank’s senior management has underlined the need for additional trust fund financing to ensure that Zimbabwe and the small group of other countries in arrears can receive support as part of our global effort to help countries respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” the spokesman said.
Zimbabwe would get $5 million from the World Bank’s global financing facility trust and another $2 million would be diverted from funds meant to help the country recover from a devastating cyclone in 2019.
“We recognise this is a global crisis that impacts every country and we cannot leave anyone behind in our response,” the spokesman said.
Zimbabwe’s finance minister wrote to the International Monetary Fund and other lenders last month warning that the country was being driven towards a health and economic catastrophe by the coronavirus pandemic because its debt arrears mean it cannot access foreign financing.
The impoverished southern African nation has only recorded 34 cases and four deaths from the coronavirus but analysts say its fragile health system will not be able to handle any surge in infections.
Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Mark Heinrich