Another $50m to come from ADB to fight pandemic

Updated April 10, 2020

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This amount has been repurposed from the National Disaster Risk Management Fund. —  AFP/File
This amount has been repurposed from the National Disaster Risk Management Fund. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is making available another $50 million to Pakistan to support the government’s efforts to fight the outbreak of novel coronavirus in the country.

This amount has been repurposed from the National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF) project. Following a request from the government for an emergency support, the ADB swiftly processed a change in the scope of its NDRMF project, enabling the repurposing and immediate use of these resources in the fight against Covid-19. The funds, which form part of ADB’s series of support for Pakistan’s fight against Covid-19, will help to procure medical equipment and supplies to strengthen hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, isolation units, and other medical facilities in the country, says a press release issued by the ADB on Thursday.

The funds include the reallocation of $30m of previously approved but unutilised resources from the Asian Bank to the disaster risk management fund.

“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 Xiaohong Yang, the ADB Country Director for Pakistan. “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,” she said.

In addition, the NDRMF has provided $20m 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.

Last month, the ADB approved $2.5m 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 $2m from ADB’s Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund, and $500,000 for procurement of supplies through Unicef.

Aside from the $50m, the 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 frontlines in intensive care facilities. The grant will also provide additional technical capacity to the government for planning and coordinating its Covid-19 response.

The NDRMF was established in 2016 in partnership with the ADB to provide support for disaster risk reduction and to invest in early warning systems and disaster preparedness projects in Pakistan. The ADB provided the initial financing through a $200m loan, while the government of Australia contributed a $3.4m grant.

In 2018, the Swiss Agency for Development provided a $1.5m grant and technical assistance to support the NDRMF. In January 2020, an additional $5m was committed to the fund by the government of Norway.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2020