ADB okays $300m loan to boost Pakistan’s Covid-19 response

Updated May 20, 2020

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The project will support purchase of medical supplies and personal protective equipment. — AFP/File
The project will support purchase of medical supplies and personal protective equipment. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $300 million emergency assistance loan to strengthen Pakistan’s public health response to the coronavirus pandemic and help meet basic needs of vulnerable and poor segments of society.

The project will support purchase of medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals and their frontline health workers, upgrading of medical facilities and training of health workers.

The project also involves purchase of vehicles to strengthen rescue capacity in remote border areas and improve Covid-19 awareness among marginal communities with limited television or internet connectivity.

The project will provide cash assistance for directly benefiting women of poor households through the government’s Ehsaas Emergency Cash Assistance Package, launched in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The government’s cash assistance package is delivered through its Ehsaas Kafaalat social protection and welfare programme.

“These payments are designed to meet the basic food needs and necessary living expenses of poor and vulnerable women and families that are the bedrock of Pakistani society,” said Zheng Wu, ADB project administration unit head and co-team leader of the project.

He said unconditional cash transfers helped improve nutritional intake of poor households and boosted women’s economic empowerment.

ADB Vice President Shixn Chen said the financing through the project would fast-track the ADB’s assistance to strengthen Pakistan’s public health capabilities, provide immediate support to vulnerable women and their families and facilitate knowledge-sharing with Pakistan’s neighbours and other countries in the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation region.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is having a significant detrimental impact on the health and economic prospects of the people of Pakistan,” Mr Chen said. This project would build Pakistan’s capacity to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic and other health emergencies.

The government of Norway has contributed $5.28m in grant proceeds for Pakistan’s Covid-19 response, which will be administered by the ADB.

Last month, the ADB reallocated $30m from the National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF) Project and the NDRMF board of directors allocated an additional $20m from the interest earned from the Endowment Fund capitalised under the project to procure medical equipment to strengthen hospitals and other medical facilities.

In March, the ADB approved $2.5m in grants to help Pakistan purchase PPE and other medical supplies.

On April 13, the ADB tripled to $20bn its initial package to address the immediate needs of its developing member countries, including Pakistan, as they respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. The ADB also approved measures to streamline its operations for quicker and more flexible delivery of assistance.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2020