Japan became the third-largest aid provider in 2021 among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to hit developing nations, government data showed Tuesday.

The annual white paper on development cooperation issued by the Foreign Ministry said Japan's official assistance in 2021, calculated by international standards under the grant equivalent system, rose 8.4 percent from the previous year to about $17.63 billion.

Photo taken in October 2021 shows the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

Among the 30 members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, Japan surpassed Britain and ranked third on a grant-equivalent basis after the United States and Germany, up from fourth in 2020.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said donations to developing countries through international institutions expanded in 2021 amid the prolonged outbreak of the novel coronavirus, first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Adding loans, Japan's official development assistance in 2021 gained 8.1 percent to $21.95 billion, the third biggest in the OECD. The figure was the highest since 2013, when the Asian nation offered $22.41 billion, according to the ministry.

In 2021, many developing countries remained plagued by the spread of COVID-19, which choked their tourism industries against a backdrop of travel restrictions aimed at preventing the intrusion of the coronavirus.

Japan's ODA might have also increased in 2022, the official said, adding the government decided to take various support measures worth around $1.6 billion in total for Ukraine, which has been fighting against Russia's invasion since February last year, and its neighboring nations.

For the first time, the white paper referred to the importance of helping the "Global South," or the developing countries in areas such as Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The Global South states are believed to be vulnerable to food and energy price hikes stemming from Russia's war in Ukraine, as well as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors. Japan's ODA includes grant aid, yen loans and technical cooperation.