From catastrophe to catalyst

Can the World Bank make COVID-19 a turning point for building universal and fair public healthcare systems?

Publication date: 4 December 2020
Authors: Emma Seery, Anna Marriott, Katie Malouf Bous, Rebecca Shadwick

COVID-19 has exposed the widespread failure to invest in strong and universal public health systems, putting millions of lives at risk and dramatically widening health inequalities. Oxfam analysed the World Bank’s emergency health funding to 71 countries in response to the pandemic. While its response has been rapid and significant, Oxfam finds that the World Bank has missed vital opportunities to strengthen public health systems so they can tackle COVID-19 and deliver health for all in the future. 

The research outlined in this briefing finds that 89% of World Bank projects do not plan to support any action to remove financial barriers, including user fees, that exclude millions from life-saving care; and two-thirds lack any plans to increase the number of healthcare workers. An urgent course correction is needed to help countries effectively fight the pandemic and build fairer, more resilient universal healthcare systems.