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An opportunity for mental health at the World Bank Annual Meetings

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With the level of public finance for mental health being so low in many countries, international finance is critical to initially fill financing gaps and provide a catalyst for adequate, efficient and sustainable public mental health finance. As COVID-19 continues to highlight the importance of good mental health for all, the IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings 2021 provide a timely platform for a high-level discussion around this urgent issue.


The World Bank has not historically prioritised mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS). There is no department for mental health, and while the institution has invested in mental health projects, MHPSS has not been a prominent or substantially funded part of its portfolio. 


But as it negotiates the next International Development Association (IDA) replenishment – a key financing mechanism for some of the world’s poorest countries – the World Bank Group has a unique opportunity to shape the future IDA strategy and policy towards mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) and to help catalyse greater investment from public and private sources. 


This is also the case with another of its key financing mechanisms - the Global Financing Facility (GFF), which is a preeminent funder of newborn, child, adolescent and maternal health. These areas of the health sector would benefit significantly from the further integration of mental health, and the GFF could be a leader on mental health within the global health sector.


Our latest brief examines these two financing mechanisms within the World Bank Group and presents the immediate opportunities for significant increase and improvement of finance for mental health across the world.

In addition to this, we will also be hosting a panel event to coincide with the World Bank and IMF Annuals on Monday 11th October, in partnership with the WHO, UNICEF, the Government of the Netherlands, and the Government of Pakistan. Together our panel of expert speakers will explore the importance of mental health financing, the progress made to date and the potential it can unlock.


Speakers for the event currently include:

  • Amruta Byatnal, Associate Editor, Devex (Chair)
  • Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF
  • Dr Faisal Sultan, Federal Health Minister, Islamic Republic of Pakistan
  • Paul Bekker, Special Envoy for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Crises, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • Dr Ren Minghui, Assistant Director General for UHC/Communicable & Non Communicable Diseases, WHO

As one of the largest financiers of global health in the world, the World Bank Group has the potential to play a unique and game-changing role in increasing and improving finance for mental health. Such investment in mental health by governments and international organisations will be critical to stepping up progress across the development agenda, and protecting the right to good mental health for all.