World Bank approves $150 Million to boost primary healthcare in Sri Lanka

World Bank

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved $150 million in financing to improve the quality and utilization of primary healthcare services in Sri Lanka.

The newly approved Sri Lanka Primary Healthcare System Enhancing Project aims to enhance the quality of care and increase the use of primary medical care institutions, which provide essential health services to local communities.

Sri Lanka has faced challenges in its healthcare system, including capacity issues and a lack of a formal referral mechanism, leading to underutilized primary healthcare facilities and overcrowded tertiary care facilities.

Previously, the World Bank-supported Primary Healthcare Systems Strengthening Project upgraded 550 Primary Medical Care Institutions with essential equipment, medicines, health workers, and basic laboratory testing facilities.

The new project will build on these efforts, aiming to cover 100% of Primary Medical Care Institutions across all districts in Sri Lanka. It will expand to over 1,000 facilities, offering a more comprehensive service package and improved quality of care.

“Sri Lanka’s health system has demonstrated remarkable performance, but it needs to be strengthened to face emerging healthcare challenges,” said Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. “This project will support the country’s forward-looking primary care reorganization agenda, laying the foundation for a more responsive and people-centric healthcare system.”

Non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and cervical cancer are major health issues in Sri Lanka, accounting for 80% of deaths. Effective control and management of these diseases require robust screening, early diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up.

Additionally, Sri Lanka has the fastest aging population in South Asia, necessitating health system adaptations to meet the growing healthcare needs of the elderly. This project addresses these evolving health priorities by investing in preventive care and promoting primary care facilities as the first point of contact.

The project will also support comprehensive primary healthcare services, expanding capacity to cover mental health, palliative, geriatric, rehabilitative, and emergency care, which are particularly important for the aging population.

Moreover, the project will enhance pandemic preparedness by increasing the capacity of primary medical care institutions to detect and respond to future infectious disease outbreaks. This will enable Sri Lanka’s healthcare system to adapt and respond effectively to new and emerging challenges, according to the World Bank.