On World Health Day, a focus on long-term health for people and the planet
By Nafisa Jiwani, Managing Director for Health Initiatives at DFC.
Two years after the world went into lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, many developing countries need investment to ensure they are better prepared for future health crises.
While limited manufacturing and distribution capacity have kept COVID vaccination rates well below 50 percent across much of Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, many of these same regions face other perennial challenges to good health.
More than one in 10 people globally live without access to clean water, and often this extends to their local healthcare facilities. Widespread malnutrition is a leading cause of stunting as well as the death of young children. Shortages of other critical resources such as electricity make it difficult to operate basic medical equipment, and weak value chains can make it hard for people to access healthcare products.
In addition to creating an urgent need for investment in vaccines, therapeutics, and equipment, COVID also exposed underlying weaknesses in global health systems that make it difficult to prevent and treat both communicable and chronic diseases.
This year, on World Health Day, the World Health Organization is putting a broad spotlight on all the factors that contribute to good health, from clean air and water to sufficient food and a healthy planet.
DFC — the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation — has put a similarly broad focus on healthcare, investing aggressively to expand access to vaccines in the developing world while also working to build long-term health resilience in developing countries.
Almost two years ago, DFC launched the Global Health and Prosperity Initiative to support the global COVID response and ensure that the world would be better prepared for future health crises.
Since then, DFC investments in the sector have increased significantly. Fiscal year 2021 investments in healthcare totaled almost $1 billion, almost four times the average health commitments for the prior five years. Since launching the Global Health and Prosperity Initiative in 2020, DFC has supported nearly $2 billion to 24 healthcare transactions.
At a time when new COVID variants continue to arise and prolong the pandemic, these transactions will significantly boost vaccine manufacturing capacity in the developing world. One single transaction — a loan to India’s Biological E Limited — will support the production of at least one billion vaccines for Asia by the end of 2022, for example.
But DFC investments are also addressing challenges beyond COVID and laying the groundwork for more robust and resilient global health. In Ecuador, DFC financing is helping one hospital in Quito expand to meet a surge in demand for prenatal and pediatric care. A DFC loan is supporting the expansion of a network of dialysis chains that offer affordable care in Sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated one million people suffer from chronic kidney disease. In Zambia, DFC insurance is supporting a USAID initiative to reduce child stunting by expanding access to nutrition, training farmers and educating mothers. We also support multiple projects to expand access to clean water by providing loans for municipal infrastructure and piped water in homes.