ISLAMABAD - The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a $200 million package to help Pakistan take effective and timely action to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by strengthening the country’s national healthcare systems and mitigating socioeconomic disruptions.

This support will also draw an extra $38 million from eight existing projects for urgently needed medical equipment and supplies. While focusing on the COVID-19 preparedness and emergency response in the health sector, the Pandemic Response Effectiveness Project (PREP) will also help the poor and vulnerable cope with the immediate impact of the pandemic through social protection measures, food rations, and remote learning education.

Dr. Syed Pervaiz Abbas, Federal Secretary of Economic Affairs Division signed the financing agreement on behalf of Government of Pakistan while Provincial project agreements were signed by the designated officers of Provincial Governments. Mr. Patchamuthu Illangovan, Country Director signed the agreements on behalf of World Bank.

Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Mr. Muhammad Hammad Azhar witnessed the signing ceremony through video link for Project “Pandemic Response Effectiveness in Pakistan” worth US$ 200 million with the World Bank held at Economic Affairs Division

“The World Bank is ramping up its support to Pakistan and its people to fight the spread of COVID-19 in the country,” said Patchamuthu, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. “PREP will help strengthen the country’s capacity to detect and monitor the disease. In addition, it will also make available resources to support cash transfer through existing arrangements to the poor and vulnerable. We will continue to partner with Federal and Provincial Governments to ensure effective implementation during these testing times,” said Patchamuthu.

The development objective of the project is to support the government to prepare and respond to the Covid-19 pandemic in Pakistan and strengthen national systems for public health preparedness. The project will primarily focus health sector operations to help address the critical country-level needs to prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19. It will also support strengthening the country’s national health systems for public health preparedness and response needs related to the Covid-19 outbreak, and includes mitigation measures in social protection and education.

PREP will help establish quarantine facilities in collaboration with public and private hospitals and also supply equipment to hospitals, including ventilators and Personal Protection Equipment for doctors and paramedics. The project will benefit infected people, at-risk populations, medical and emergency personnel, service providers in medical and testing facilities (both public and private), and national and provincial departments of health.

The scope of this project will be nationwide, covering all provinces/territories of the country. The primary project beneficiaries will be infected people, at-risk populations, medical and emergency personnel as well as service providers at medical and testing facilities (both public and private), and national and provincial departments of health.

Staff of key technical departments and provincial health departments will also benefit from the project as their capabilities will increase through the strengthened institutional capacity. The primary target groups for the support to mitigate socioeconomic impacts are expected to be: (i) affected households with high vulnerability to shocks, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable who tend to have limited assets and other mechanisms to protect themselves from shocks (bottom 20 of the distribution); and (ii) households who are affected due to mobility restrictions such as quarantines that disrupt their ability to meet basic needs. Households may benefit from multiple interventions under the proposed project which, inter-alia, includes (i) emergency cash transfers to up to four (4) million families enrolled in the safety program across the country; (ii) emergency food supply for quarantined populations; and (iii) children’s learning activities by ensuring remote learning sessions through broadcast.

The Project is financed from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessional credit window for developing countries, in the amount of $200 million, of which $100 million is provided through the World Bank Group’s COVID-19 Fast-Track Facility.

The extra $38 million financing is repurposed from existing projects and will support federal and provincial governments in purchasing necessary equipment and supplies. Procurement is underway and some equipment and supplies have arrived and being put to service.

The Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Mr. Muhammad Hammad Azhar, thanked the World Bank for extending its support to Government of Pakistan for carrying out national drive against Covid-19 Pandemic emergency.