The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $300 million emergency assistance loan to strengthen Pakistan’s public health response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and help meet the basic needs of vulnerable and poor segments of society.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant detrimental impact on the health and economic prospects of the people of Pakistan,” said ADB Vice-President Shixin Chen.
Financing through this project will fast-track 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 neighbors and other countries in the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation region.
The project will support the purchase of medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals and their frontline health workers; upgrading of medical facilities; training of health workers; the purchase of emergency vehicles to strengthen rescue capacity in remote border areas; and strengthening COVID-19 awareness among marginal communities with limited television or internet connectivity.
To protect the poor, ADB’s 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 Kafaalat social protection and welfare program.
“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.”
The Government of Norway has also contributed $5.28 million in grant proceeds for Pakistan’s COVID-19 response, which will be administered by ADB.
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 from earned interest from the Endowment Fund capitalized under the project to procure medical equipment to 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 to $20 billion its initial package to address the immediate needs of its developing member countries including Pakistan as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. ADB also approved measures to streamline its operations for quicker and more flexible delivery of assistance.