A volunteer from the Rays of Light NGO (R) delivers food and cleaning products to an elderly woman (L) living alone in…
A volunteer from the Rays of Light NGO delivers food and cleaning products to an elderly woman living alone in Alexandra, Johannesburg, on April 16, 2020.

WASHINGTON - The World Bank and International Monetary Fund said on Friday that Africa needs $44 billion more to fight the coronavirus pandemic despite a freeze in debt payments for many countries and massive pledges of support.

The Washington-based lenders and other official creditors have already mobilized $57 billion to support healthcare and economic recovery on the world's poorest continent, they said in a joint statement with African leaders, while private funds have given $13 billion.

"This is an important start, but the continent needs an estimated $114 billion in 2020 in its fight against COVID-19, leaving a financing gap of around $44 billion," the statement said.

Africa was high on the agenda during the IMF and World Bank spring meetings this week.

Experts fear the continent's notoriously weak health systems won't be able to stop the spread of COVID-19 while the combined effects of a slump in demand for minerals and tourism together with lockdowns to stem the contagion wallop economies.

The IMF expects Africa's gross domestic product to shrink by 1.6 percent in 2020, "the worst result ever recorded," and the World Bank has warned that the region could slip into its first recession in 25 years.

"This pandemic has already had a devastating impact on Africa and its effects will deepen as the rate of infection rises," South African President and African Union Chairman Cyril Ramaphosa said in the statement.

"It is a setback for the progress we have made to eradicate poverty, inequality and underdevelopment."

The G20 grouping of the world's largest economies agreed on Wednesday to a standstill in debt payments for the world's poorest nations, many of which are in Africa.

The World Bank has meanwhile pledged to roll out $160 billion over the next 15 months for health care and economic recovery projects worldwide, while the IMF said 102 countries as of Thursday had asked to tap its $1 trillion lending war chest.                 

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