Coming together like never before to fight COVID-19 in Pakistan

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This blog is part of the 'Act Now Pakistan' series focusing on ideas, policies and actions for Pakistan to recover stronger and better as the COVID-19 crisis subsides.


As COVID-19 takes its human and economic toll around the world, the World Bank is supporting Pakistan’s frontline health care staff and those whose lives have been affected by the pandemic.

They say every crisis is an opportunity, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. On February 26, Pakistan confirmed its first two cases of the coronavirus. As the number of cases has continued to grow, Pakistan has ramped up efforts to fight the pandemic.  As of April 22, Pakistan had at least 9,749 cases and 209 fatalities, according to the WHO.  

Just as the World Bank’s conversations with the government began, it became clear that the pandemic was having a nationwide impact. We shifted gears to respond swiftly to the emergency. Our Pakistan team stepped up to the challenge by preparing the $200 million Pandemic Response Effectiveness in Pakistan (PREP) project, supported by an additional $47.5 million from our existing projects. 

PREP is a uniquely nimble project that progressed from inception to implementation in just 10 days. Processes that usually take 10 months or more, such as opening designated accounts, were greatly accelerated. As of April 23, the project has disbursed $69.8 million to enable an early response to the emergency.  This was possible because of the close working relationship between the Bank and the government, and an exemplary collaboration across a team spanning multiple sectors and time zones.

Processes that usually take 10 months or more were accelerated and completed in just 10 days for PREP.

The World Bank’s support is already having an impact on the ground for people in greatest need at the heart of this emergency.  To protect frontline staff who have an increased risk of infection, the project is providing personal protective equipment (PPE)  – such as masks, gloves, protective suits, gowns, coveralls, shoe covers, goggles and face shields – to doctors and paramedics. The first consignment of PPE has already been delivered. The project will also help establish quarantine facilities in collaboration with public and private hospitals, and will supply diagnostic test kits, ventilators, and other essential equipment. It will strengthen laboratory capacity and train staff to enhance the country’s detection capacity.

As of April 23, PREP has disbursed $69.8 million, to enable an early response to the emergency.

First consignment of Personal Protection Equipment being delivered through Pakistan's Pandemic Response Effectiveness Project (PREP)
First consignment of Personal Protection Equipment being delivered through Pakistan's Pandemic Response Effectiveness Project (PREP)

Turning this crisis into an opportunity for revolutionizing the education and learning agenda through technology, Pakistan’s government, with support from PREP, has launched the Teleschool initiative.  This platform is a dedicated TV channel operating between 8 am and 6 pm, with educational content for students (grade 1 to 12), to compensate for school closures due to the lockdown.    

As the countrywide lockdown keeps educational institutions, businesses and industries closed indefinitely, its impact is expected to be the harshest on poor families and informal workers.   PREP is therefore supporting emergency cash transfers to help the poor and vulnerable cope with the immediate impact of the pandemic.  Additionally, food rations will be distributed in highly disrupted areas, where severe mobility restrictions limit people’s ability to meet basic needs.

The Teleschool initiative aims to turn this crisis into an opportunity for revolutionizing education through technology.

Image of PTV Teleschool Initiative
The Teleschool initiative is a separate TV channel operating between 8am and 6pm and covering education content for grades 1 to 12, to compensate for academic loss due to the lockdown.

Recognizing both the short- and long-term impacts of the pandemic, the Bank has designed its support on the ‘4R’ principle: response, relief, recovery and resilience. 

While our immediate response is aimed at fighting the health emergency, we recognize the long road ahead: after the pandemic subsides, its impacts on people, health care systems, and the economy will linger.

The Bank designed its support on the '4R' principle: response, relief, recovery and resilience.

The Bank will build on its support and provide additional technical and financial assistance to protect the livelihoods of all Pakistanis.  It will help ensure access to food and basic health and education services, create temporary jobs, support small and medium businesses, and speed up the revival of the economy. We’ll continue working closely with the federal and provincial governments to identify opportunities for responding to COVID-19’s long-term effects.

So this crisis is indeed also an opportunity. An opportunity for us all to join hands to identify gaps, improve the response, and become better prepared for the future. Our World Bank team recognizes and commends the unrelenting efforts of our counterparts in Pakistan, who have stepped up in the face of this health crisis.   We hope that this emergency will also build resilience for future pandemic response.


Aliya Kashif

Senior Health Specialist

Shaza Khan

Operations Officer

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