Since early 2021, the World Bank has been supporting Mongolia’s response to COVID-19, while helping the country prepare for future health crises.
So far, more than 6,100 pieces of medical equipment worth over $16 million has been provided to all provincial and district hospitals as well as central hospitals in Ulaanbaatar.
The project also supported training for emergency care doctors and nurses, infection control measures and public information campaigns, as well as the national vaccination campaign.
When Iderzaya Davaajav, a 43-year-old man, first contracted COVID-19, he hardly knew what he would go through. Without any known pre-existing conditions, he was admitted to the hospital with 95% of his lungs damaged.
“It was getting very hard to breathe…,” said Iderzaya. “I was worried a lot. I was worried about my children and my family.”
Iderzaya was in hospital for 41 days while his lungs were infected with the coronavirus and couldn’t function.
“When I was getting treatment at the reanimation unit, I experienced firsthand the benefits of improved health services in the hospital. The doctors took tests and imaging regularly, using modern mobile equipment by my bedside, so I didn’t have to be moved to other places,” he said.
Iderzaya is now fully recovered. He is convinced that without the doctors and the equipment, his life would have been in danger.
“We are really blessed to have this state-of-the-art equipment in our hospital. It is saving lives. It saved the life of Iderzaya and many other young and old men and women we treated at the hospital since the COVID-19 outbreak. We are glad to have this effective equipment at hand to help our treatment.” S. Narangerel, Vice Director, Third State Hospital of Mongolia
Gearing up ahead of the crisis
Mobile x-rays, ventilators, and other types of equipment were part of the package financed under the World Bank-supported Mongolia COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Sector Preparedness Project. The project is supporting Mongolia’s emergency needs while also helping the country prepare for future health crises.
“The project was approved in April 2020, when we had no local COVID-19 outbreaks [in Mongolia]. Thanks to acting early, we were able to gear up ahead of the local outbreak,” said Dr. Buyantogtokh, Project Director at the Ministry of Health. “This made a huge difference. When first patients started to get admitted to the hospitals in late 2020, we were already prepared, so the treatment was very effective.”
So far, more than 6,100 units of medical equipment worth over $16 million have been provided to all provincial and district hospitals as well as central hospitals in Ulaanbaatar. This has not only helped the hospitals improve infection prevention control and patient care, but also increased their diagnostic, laboratory, and treatment capacity. The project also supported training for emergency care doctors, nurses, and paramedical staff, as well as infection control measures and public information campaigns. An additional $1 million grant was provided through the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility to help the country supply more than 4 million pieces of personal protective equipment to health care providers and officers at high-risk screening points.
A World Bank-facilitated procurement facility helped ensure the delivery of high-quality equipment amid rising global demand. “The fact that we were able to procure the equipment at a factory price, on a very tight timeline, and amid a global shortage of medical goods is something that we are very satisfied with and proud of,” said J.Bayartogtokh, a procurement specialist of the project.
**Safe and effective vaccines for all **
In February 2021, an additional financing of $50.7 million (to an initial $26.9 million) for the project was approved to support fair and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines, as well as continued response and recovery efforts. The funding supported Mongolia’s nationwide vaccination campaign, which rolled out in early 2021. To date, about 2.2 million people – over two-thirds of the total population – have received their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Since August 2021, Mongolia has started administering booster shots, as well as vaccines to 12 to 17-year-olds.
“Aging infrastructure had made storing and deploying routine childhood vaccines across the country a challenge,” said Dashpagma, head of the vaccination unit of the National Center for Communicable Diseases (NCCD). “The influx of COVID-19 vaccines for most of the adult population has exacerbated this problem, so we were in urgent need of a comprehensive solution.”
To address aging infrastructure and inadequate vaccine storage capacity, a new Central Storage for Vaccines and Bioproducts was completed in three months with the project financing and opened in August 2021. The vaccine storage facility – four times more spacious than the old facility – was built in accordance with high international standards. The facility is energy-efficient, earthquake resistant, and fully equipped with modern engineering and safety systems to ensure safe and effective deployment. The project has purchased 800 fridges, 34 items of ultra-cold chain equipment, and 10 cold rooms for a total of $2.9 million, which were installed both in the central storage facility and at vaccination units around the country.
“With this new facility, we are proud to say that Mongolia’s vaccine storage and cold chain capacity has entered a new stage. Every single vaccination unit in the country, down to soums and bags, is able to receive properly stored vaccines from the central storage, ensuring that all people, including those living in remote areas, are vaccinated.”, Dr. S. Altanchimeg, Worked in NCCD handling vaccine storage for over 20 years.
Going beyond health
The World Bank is also helping Mongolia mitigate the worst impacts of the pandemic and achieve better outcomes in education, social protection, governance, and small and medium enterprises. Support for social insurance has provided direct relief for about 120,000 people enrolled in the country’s voluntary plan—including self-employed workers, micro-entrepreneurs, and the informally employed—as well as workers and employers in the formal sector. This helped people cover daily expenses during the crisis while maintaining access to pensions, disability and unemployment benefits, and paid maternity leave. In addition, the World Bank mobilized $5 million through an education project to support the government’s Child Money Program, benefiting more than 1 million children.
“As a doctor myself, I know that the equipment, vaccines, and training provided have helped to prevent many deaths from COVID-19 and improved medical care for other diseases,” said project lead Kate Mandeville.