World Bank earmarks US$18.6 mn. to support Lankan agri, food security needs

Chiyo Kanda, World Bank Country Manager

For the second time in the World Bank’s history, Contingent Emergency Response Components (CERC) resources have been combined from many ongoing projects into one account to meet an unprecedented COVID-19 emergency in Sri Lanka.

In early 2020, when the first COVID-19 wave swept across Sri Lanka, triggering lockdowns, and impacting livelihoods, the World Bank and the government came together to support emergency response actions across multiple hard-hit sectors. The result was the creation of the Contingent Emergency Response Components (CERC) Pool covering key economic sectors of agriculture, education, ICT, transport, and disaster risk management.

Within weeks, the CERC Pool reallocated $56 million from ongoing projects to support prioritized COVID-19 recovery and response activities. The CERC Pool, launched in September 2020, is supporting COVID-19 affected communities, strengthening resilience by online education, ensuring food security, safe transport, water and sanitation, preparedness to floods, and expanding digital infrastructure.

“The World Bank COVID-19 response CERC Pool was put together in a couple of weeks. We reallocated Bank funds to match the pandemic requirements at the request of the government. The aim was to realign available funds according to government priorities,” said World Bank Country Manager for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Chiyo Kanda.

A total of $18.6 million was earmarked to support agriculture and food security needs. CERC Pool is supporting the construction of 104 crop storage facilities for small scale farmers growing onions, mung beans, groundnut, and cowpea. Farmers also received high quality seeds to continue their livelihood despite pandemic disruptions. The storage units are on State land to promote equitable access and are expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Under COVID-19 prevention the World Bank is also supporting the government to increase water and sanitation services in schools to improve daily disinfection and cleaning protocols. These measures include redesigning and installing additional facilities to ensure basic water, sanitation, and waste management services. These measures will be critical to resume onsite education and reduce the disparities that have emerged due to the pandemic.

Some funds have also been earmarked to support online education and set up a system for tele-education and e-learning for school and university students.

“Well-developed digital education has the potential to be a game changer in education. The World Bank hopes to engage and support Sri Lanka’s digital development efforts further and this will very likely be a key focus in the next Country Partnership Framework between Sri Lanka and the Bank that will map out projects for investment over the next four years,” said Ms. Chiyo Kanda.

Under the $5.95 million ICT component, the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), in collaboration with various stakeholders, is working to improve digital infrastructure and bring public services online, to allow government officials to work efficiently from home.

The $24.2 million allocation from the transport sector is to implement sanitation and COVID-19 related social distancing measures on public transport. CERC activities have focused on the purchase of non-contact Infrared (IR) thermometers in buses, provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for transport employees, and to procure sanitizer spray machines for 300 bus terminals.

Close to $1.61 million allocation under CERC Pool supports flood response activities.