WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The World Bank on Thursday approved $150 million in disaster financing for the Dominican Republic to help it better prepare for natural disasters, weeks after the country was pummeled by two major hurricanes.
The loan was the first contingency line of credit approved by the World Bank for a Caribbean country under the so-called Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option.
The facility provides countries with financing to prepare them for natural disasters without taking government resources away from social or development programs, the World Bank said.
The Dominican Republic was battered by Hurricane Irma on Sept. 7 and drenched days later by Hurricane Maria, forcing evacuations and damaging infrastructure and homes.
"This financing will help us mitigate risks from climate shocks, natural disasters, as well as pandemics," Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina said in a statement.
Tahseen Sayed, World Bank director for the Caribbean, said the financing would help the Dominican Republic strengthen and speed up its response to disasters.
"The most important lesson from our experience in disaster response across the world is to invest in prevention and preparedness to be able to respond speedily when disaster strikes," said Sayed.
Economic damage from disasters in the Dominican Republican is estimated at about $420 million a year, according to a recent World Bank and Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development study.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Peter Cooney)