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 the basic needs of vulnerable and poor segments of society.
The project will support the purchase of medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals and their frontline health workers, upgrade medical facilities, training of health workers.
It will also be used to purchase emergency vehicles to strengthen rescue capacity in remote border areas and strengthening COVID-19 awareness among marginal communities with limited television or internet connectivity.
ADB Vice-President Shixin Chen said the COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant detrimental impact on the health and economic prospects of the people of Pakistan. He said the project will 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 regional countries.
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The project will provide cash assistance to directly benefit the 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 Kifalat social protection and welfare program administered by the BISP.
“These payments are designed to meet the basic food needs and necessary living expenses of poor and vulnerable women and families, which are the bedrock of Pakistani society,” said ADB’s Project Administration Unit Head and co-team leader of the project Zheng Wu.
“Unconditional cash transfers help improve the nutritional intake of poor households and boost women’s economic empowerment. This project will build Pakistan’s capacity to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies.”
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Last month, ADB reallocated $30 million from the National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF) Project and the NDRMF Board of Directors allocated an additional $20 million to procure medical equipment and strengthen hospitals and other medical facilities. In March, ADB approved $2.5 million in grants to help Pakistan purchase PPE and other medical supplies.
On 13 April, ADB tripled the initial package to $20 billion to address the immediate needs of developing member countries including Pakistan as they address the COVID-19 pandemic. ADB also approved measures to streamline its operations for quicker and more flexible delivery of assistance.