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ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Pakistan signed the loan agreement for $300 million and grant agreement of $5 million under emergency assistance for fighting against Covid-19, here on Friday.

The Economic Affairs Division (EAD) secretary Noor Ahmed and ADB country director for Pakistan Xiaohong Yang signed the agreement, which will strengthen Pakistan's public health response to Covid-19 pandemic and help meeting basic needs of the deprived and vulnerable.

Secretary of the Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division Yousuf Khan and Chief Executive of the National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF) Nadeem Ahmed signed the project documents. Parliamentary Secretary for Economic Affairs Division Mohammad Yaqoob Shaikh witnessed the signing ceremony.

Under the signed agreement, public health emergency preparedness and response system will be strengthened. The NDRMF will provide this financing to government agencies for procurement of medical supplies, personal protective equipments (PPEs) and emergency vehicles.

In addition, public health facilities including infrastructure, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and waste management system will be upgraded. It will also strengthen the health management systems including inventory control, disease surveillance and standard protocols, etc.

Under social protection component, an amount of $200 million is allocated for deprived and vulnerable.

Benazir Income Support Programme will utilise this amount for additional cash transfers to the BISP beneficiaries and Ehsaas Programme. The BISP will provide additional one-time cash transfer of Rs 4000 to 3.3 million beneficiary women and ongoing UCT installments of Rs 2000 per month to 2.5 million beneficiary women for the first four months of fiscal year 2021 to enable them meeting basic needs.

Minister for Economic Affairs Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar expressed government's commitment to do whatever it takes to protect life and livelihood of people during these difficult times.

"The ADB assistance signed will support Pakistan's social protection programme Ehsaas to continue providing emergency cash transfers to deprived families and women," said Yang. "The project will also help swiftly upgrade medical facilities and procure necessary supplies for hospitals and frontline health workers, meet rapid training and capacity building needs, and purchase emergency vehicles to strengthen rescue capacity in remote border areas."

In April, the ADB reallocated $30 million from the National Disaster Risk Management Project to support Pakistan's pandemic response and the NDRMF board of directors allocated an additional $20 million from earned interest from the Endowment Fund capitalized under the project.

The ADB and the Government of Pakistan signed another agreement on Friday to expand support for Pakistan's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province through the NDRMF.

The secretary EAD and the ADB's country director signed the agreement. After the signing ceremony, ADB country director Xiaohong Yang met with Chargé d'affaires of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Islamabad Sigbjørn Tenfjord to discuss the project. Under the agreement, the Government of Norway will provide a $5.28 million grant to strengthen the emergency response system in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province amid the Covid-19 crisis. The grant is drawn from the unused resources of the Pakistan Earthquake Fund and will be administered by the ADB. "The grant will help provide emergency response services, procure necessary equipment and supplies to poor communities in KP remote areas," said Yang.

"This reflects the enduring partnership and commitment of the Norwegian government and ADB to supporting disaster risk reduction in Pakistan." Norway has provided significant financial and technical support to Pakistan, including in good governance, education, health, and emergency assistance.

Norway has worked with the ADB and other partners to help Pakistan swiftly rebuild and recover from the 2005 earthquake. Following the heavy floods, which devastated large parts of Pakistan in 2010 and 2011, Norway provided more than $56.4 million in aid for flood-affected families and to restore basic services.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020