ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has repurposed $50 million from Pakistan’s National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF) to support the government’s preventive and response efforts to fight the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.
The funds, which form a part of ADB’s series of support for Pakistan’s fight against COVID-19, will help procure medical equipment and ensure adequete supplies to strengthen hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, isolation units, and other medical facilities in the country.
The funds include the reallocation of $30 million of previously approved but unutilised resources from ADB to the NDRMF.
“Following a request for emergency support from the Government of Pakistan, ADB swiftly processed a change in scope in its NDRMF project, enabling the repurposing and immediate use of these resources in the fight against COVID-19,” said a statement issued by ADB. “In addition, the NDRMF has provided $20 million using capital gains from its endowment fund financed by the ADB to support the government’s COVID-19 response.”
These funds complement the financing approved on April 2 by the World Bank under its Pandemic Response Effectiveness Project.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 is a profound challenge for Pakistan and we are committed to providing flexible and timely support to help manage this crisis,” said ADB Country Director for Pakistan Xiaohong Yang. “This funding will immediately support Pakistan’s efforts to fight the pandemic and strengthen health care services for the poorest and most vulnerable groups—including the elderly, women, and children.”
Apart from $50 million, ADB is mobilising existing technical assistance — Capacity Building of Disaster Risk Management Institutions — to provide training for at least 5,000 doctors, nurses, and technical staff working on the front lines in intensive care facilities. The grant will also provide additional technical capacity to the government for planning and coordinating its COVID-19 response.
Last month, the ADB approved $2.5 million in immediate response grant funding to help Pakistan purchase emergency medical supplies, personal protective equipment, diagnostic and laboratory supplies, and other equipment. This consisted of $2 million from ADB’s Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund, and $500,000 for procurement of supplies through the UNICEF.
The NDRMF was established in 2016 in partnership with ADB to provide support for disaster risk reduction and to invest in early warning systems and disaster preparedness projects in Pakistan. ADB provided the initial financing through a $200 million loan while the Government of Australia contributed a $3.4 million grant. In 2018, the Swiss Agency for Development provided a $1.5 million grant and technical assistance to support the NDRMF. In January 2020, an additional $5 million was committed to the fund by the Government of Norway.
On March 18, the ADB announced an initial package of approximately $6.5 billion to address the immediate needs of its developing member countries as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.