ADB repurposes $50 mln to help combat COVID-19 pandemic

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has re-purposed $50 million from Pakistan’s National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF) to support the Government of Pakistan’s preventive and response efforts to fight the outbreak of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.

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, said a press release issued by the ADB here on Thursday.

The funds include the reallocation of $30 million of previously approved but unutilized resources from ADB to 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.

In addition, NDRMF has provided $20 million using capital gains from its endowment fund, financed by ADB to support the government’s COVID-19 response. These funds complement the financing approved on 2 April 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 healthcare services for the poorest and most vulnerable groups — including the elderly, women, and children.”

Aside from the $50 million, ADB is mobilizing 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, 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 UNICEF.

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 NDRMF. In January 2020, an additional $5 million was committed to the fund by the Government of Norway.

On 18 March, 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.