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WASHINGTON: The World Bank has approved $90 million in additional financing for Iran, to help fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, a spokesperson said Friday. The Washington-based development lender’s board of directors approved the aid on December 21, a World Bank spokesperson said, which “will be utilized only for procuring additional lifesaving, essential medical equipment to strengthen Iran’s pandemic response.”

“This funding will not go to the Iranian budget and all loan proceeds, as well as procurement and disbursements, are being managed by the World Health Organization,” the spokesperson said. The World Bank had in May 2020 extended Tehran $50 million via the Iran Covid-19 Emergency Response Project, which the spokesperson said was carried out “on an exceptional basis” due to the pandemic.

The spokesperson called Iran “the epicenter of Covid-19 infections in the region” and said quelling the virus there would benefit its neighbors, particularly as the Omicron variant threatens to cause a new wave of cases. “World Bank support for Iran’s Covid-19 response will help mitigate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country as well as limit the spread of the disease beyond its borders,” the spokesperson said.

Iran has suffered nearly 132,000 deaths from Covid-19 and more than 6.2 million cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The World Bank spokesperson noted that “distribution and installation of the equipment will take place at health facilities approved by the World Bank and will be subject to independent monitoring and verification.”

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