ISLAMABAD - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Pakistan on Friday signed the agreement for a $300 million emergency assistance loan initially approved by the bank on 19 May.

The Secretary of the Economic Affairs Division Noor Ahmed and ADB Country Director for Pakistan Xiaohong Yang signed the agreement on the loan, which will strengthen Pakistan’s public health response to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and help meet the basic needs of the poor 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.

“The ADB assistance signed will support Pakistan’s social protection program Ehsaas to continue providing emergency cash transfers to poor families and women,” said Ms. 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.”

Under this financing agreement, public health emergency preparedness and response system will be strengthened. National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF) will provide this financing to government agencies for procurement of medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPEs) and emergency vehicles. In addition, public health facilities including infrastructure, water, sanitation & hygiene (WASH) and waste management system will be upgraded. It will also strengthen the health management systems including inventory control, disease surveillance & standard protocols, etc.

Under social protection component, an amount of $200 million is allocated for poor and vulnerable. Benazir Income Support Program will utilize this amount for additional cash transfers to BISP beneficiaries and Ehsaas Program. The BISP will provide additional one-time cash transfer of Rs4,000 to 3.3 million beneficiary women and ongoing UCT instalments of Rs2,000 per month to 2.5 million beneficiary women for the first 4-months of FY2021 to enable them to meet their basis needs. It will also allow BISP to expand the coverage to the next level of poor families likely to be worse off from the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19.

In other development, the ADB and the Government of Pakistan signed an agreement to expand support for Pakistan’s response to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province through the National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF).

The Secretary of Pakistan’s Economic Affairs Division Noor Ahmed and ADB’s Country Director for Pakistan Xiaohong Yang signed the agreement. After the signing ceremony, Ms. 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 ADB.

“The grant will help provide emergency response services, procure necessary equipment and supplies to poor communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s remote areas,” said Ms. Yang. “This reflects the enduring partnership and commitment of the Norwegian government and ADB to supporting disaster risk reduction in Pakistan.”

In April, 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.

Norway has provided significant financial and technical support to Pakistan, including in good governance, education, health, and emergency assistance. Norway worked with 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.

Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar, Minister for Economic Affairs expressed his deep appreciation to ADB for this timely financial support. He also expressed commitment of GOP to do whatever it takes to protect life and livelihood of people during these difficult times.