ISLAMABAD: The World Bank says progress on the project, for which it had approved $200 million for responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and strengthening national systems for public health preparedness in Pakistan, is moderately unsatisfactory and less than 40 per cent of the total financing has so far been disbursed.

The ‘Pandemic Response Effec­tive­ness in Pakistan (Prep)’ project became effective on April 3 last year with a cost of $200m and funding from the International Development Association (IDA). As of January 28, the project disbursed $79.4m, which included $25m for the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) for achievement of performance-based conditions on cash transfers.

A just released report on the project says the government has requested the World Bank to restructure the project and reallocate funds worth $12m from a component of the project for provision of emergency food supply to the component on mitigating the impacts on education.

The government is of the view that the additional funding will guarantee continuity and scale up activities in the education sector.

These will be comprehensive communications campaign for schools and parents to engage in distance-learning activities and development and implementation of plans to ensure the continuity of learning, including remote learning options, at all levels of education.

This particular component of the project will also ensure remote learning to 50m children whose schools are now shut or will start to reopen. This will include TV/radio broadcast, virtual networks of teachers and other means of distance delivery of academic content at all levels: primary, secondary and tertiary.

The primary focus will be on keeping children and teachers engaged with learning activities while maintaining social distancing measures to minimise as much as possible the effects on children and youths.

The report says that despite the considerable progress made in mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on education outcomes, the need to reach out to school children persists. The activities planned by the education ministry, for which $5m was initially allocated, have all been implemented.

These activities have shown positive results but need to be scaled up as a new phone survey has shown that 20 per cent of the households might not still send children back to school. If this materialises, an additional 4m kids will be out of school. This will bring Pakistan’s out of school children from 19m to 23m.

The report says that the implementation progress relating to emergency Covid-19 preparedness and response, for which an allocation of $155m was made, has not progressed except for the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In parallel to the ‘Pandemic Resp­onse Effectiveness in Pakistan’, grant funds of $15m through the Pandemic Emerg­ency Facility are being used for purchase of laboratory equipment and diagnostic supplies carried out by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.

With respect to a component of the project to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, there is mixed progress.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2021

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