World Bank says $49.3 bn pledged to help poorest

Pledges will help lift 79 states out of poverty through interest-free funds.

Brussels: The World Bank fund for the globe`s poorest nations said on Wednesday it has raised a record USD 49.3 billion to help lift 79 states out of poverty through interest-free funds.

"This strong response by donors signals that development funding should not be viewed just as aid, but rather as an investment in the future, as we need developing country growth to ignite global growth," said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweaka, World Bank managing director.

The pledges to the International Development Association (IDA) for 2011 to 2014 -- 18 percent higher than the last round -- will help immunise 200 million children, offer health services to over 30 million people and give access to improved water to another 80 million, the bank said in a statement.

The announcement was made in Brussels after a meeting of the IDA`s main donors, who meet every three years to review policies and replenish its coffers.

The fund is one of the world`s largest sources of aid for 79 poor nations, 39 of them in Africa.

A total 51 donors, including China, contributed to the IDA round, which set up a special crisis response fund that will include a special allocation for earthquake-hit Haiti.

European Union countries contributed 43 percent of the total -- well below the EUR 85 billion used to bail out Ireland and its banks by the bloc and the IMF.

Since its creation in 1960, the IDA fund has provided more than USD 220 billion, averaging 14 billion annually over the last two years, with around 20 percent of funding provided as grants, the remainder in interest-free long-term credits, often stretching 35-40 years, including a 10-year grace period.

"This is a very significant accomplishment at a time of budget cuts in many donor countries," said World Bank Group president Robert B Zoellick.

Following its last meeting in 2007, the IDA raised USD 41.7 billion for projects ending in June 2011.

NGO Oxfam welcomed the replenishment while urging the World Bank to detail how it tracks and spends money in poor countries.