The World Bank will provide India a $1-billion loan to support disease surveillance and early detection of infectious diseases and improve healthcare services in public health facilities in seven states under a pact signed on Friday.
The pact covers two complementary $500-million loans each to support two projects, the Public Health Systems for Pandemic Preparedness Programme (PHSPPP) and the Enhanced Health Services Delivery Programme (EHSDP), the bank said.
The two projects are supporting India’s decision to increase the preparedness and resilience of the country’s health systems against future pandemics,” Auguste Tano Kouame, the bank’s country director, India, said through a media release.
The bank said India’s performance in health had improved over the years — evident through gains in life expectancy, maternal mortality and under-five mortality rate among other measures. But, it said, the Covid-19 pandemic had underscored the need to enhance the capacity for core public health functions and to improve the quality and comprehensiveness of health service delivery.
The $500-million loan for the PHSPPP will support efforts to enhance the preparedness of India’s existing disease surveillance system to detect and report epidemics of potential international concern, ensure rapid response and prevent the emergence of infectious microbes.
The project will also seek to increase the country’s capacity to detect infectious agents, including those circulating among birds or mammals, and support commercialisation of new technologies to prevent, detect, or treat infectious diseases.
India’s existing disease surveillance network includes the National Centre for Disease Control in New Delhi, district surveillance units nationwide and more than 100 viral research and diagnostic centres coordinated by the Indian Council of Medical Research
Although the surveillance network routinely reports common infections such as chickenpox, dengue, or measles as well as rare ones such as monkeypox or nipah, health experts have been concerned about the lag between the start of outbreaks and their detection and documentation.
Several children have died after symptoms of acute respiratory illness in Bengal, for instance, since Monday, triggering speculation about an adenovirus outbreak. But a scientist contributing to the surveillance efforts said on Friday that “the investigation is on… not yet complete”.
The $500-million loan for the EHSDP will support the government’s efforts to improve primary health services and strengthen the workforce in public health facilities in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
Both loans have a final maturity of 18.5 years, including a grace period of five years