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ISLAMABAD: The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved the restructuring of the Pandemic Response Effectiveness in Pakistan (PREP) Project, originally approved in April 2020, to redeploy $153 million to support the ongoing national vaccine drive in Pakistan.

These funds, redeployed at the request of the federal government, will help finance the purchase and deployment of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines that meet the eligibility criteria of the World Bank, said the Bank. The project will strengthen the health system’s capacity to implement the vaccination campaign for its prioritized and eligible populations. “The third wave of COVID-19 emerged in Pakistan in March 2021 and is threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people,” said Najy Benhassine, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan.

“The World Bank remains a committed partner to support Pakistan in addressing this public health crisis, including through vaccination, and providing support to tackle the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.”

According to the project documents, the development objective of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic Response Effectiveness Project was to prepare and respond to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic in Pakistan and strengthen national systems for public health preparedness.

This project had four components:

(1) The first component, Emergency COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Preparedness and Response, aims to slow down and limit as much as possible the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in the country. It has the following subcomponents: (i) Prevention; (ii) Detection; and (iii) Response.

(2) The second component, Mitigation of Disruptive Impacts, aims to address significant negative externalities expected in the event of a widespread COVID19 (Coronavirus) outbreak using different safety net mechanisms based on the extent of disruptions. It has the following subcomponents: (i) Emergency Social Safety Net; and (ii) Mitigation of Impacts in Education.

(3) The third component, Implementation Management and Monitoring and Evaluation, support project implementation, coordination, and management, including support for financial management, procurement, environmental and social, monitoring and evaluation of prevention and preparedness, capacity building for clinical and public health research, joint-learning across and within the country, a gender and vulnerability analysis of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, and third-party monitoring of progress and after-action reviews.

(4) The fourth component, Contingent Emergency Response Component, allows flexibility to respond to the dynamics of the pandemic as it evolves during the life of the project.

Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination, National Disaster Management Authority, Benazir Income Support Programme and Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training are the implementing agencies of the project while total commitment was $200 million from the International Development Association (IDA). The closing date for the project was June 30, 2023.

The implementation of the project was reportedly delayed due to the pending PC-I. Following the instructions issued by the Economic Affairs Division, federal and provincial PC-Is were prepared for the health component of the project. However, due to a significant delay in their approval process, implementation was on a pause.

In addition to this financing for vaccines in Pakistan, the World Bank has provided a total of $768.5 million to support the vaccination purchase and rollout efforts in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

In addition to financing, the Bank is providing technical assistance and knowledge-sharing workshops for countries in South Asia on different aspects of designing and deploying fair and equitable vaccine strategies.

According to the Bank statement, the World Bank, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries respond to the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19. This includes $12 billion to help low-and middle-income countries purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, and strengthen vaccination systems. The financing builds on the broader World Bank Group COVID-19 response, which is helping more than 100 countries strengthen health systems, support the poorest households, and create supportive conditions to maintain livelihoods and jobs for those hit hardest.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021