Govt, World Bank ink $29m financing pact to combat COVID-19

Kathmandu, April 7

The World Bank today approved a fast-track $29 million COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project to Nepal to prevent, detect, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen its public health preparedness.

An agreement to this effect was inked between Finance Secretary Sishir Kumar Dhungana and World Bank Country Manager for Nepal Faris Hadad-Zervos.

The project focuses on the immediate response and preparedness needs to fight the virus and provides emergency support to enhance Nepal’s capacity to detect cases and ensure prompt contact tracing consistent with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and Ministry of Health and Population protocols, as per the World Bank. It will also help set up new intensive care units, beds, and isolation facilities across the country. The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Health and Population.

“We are thankful to the World Bank for the response in a record short period of time, which will help Nepal respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen our capacities to deal with future public health risks,” said Finance Secretary Dhungana, adding, “Immediately after the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, the government has made several arrangements to prevent and address the possible crisis.”

He also urged the World Bank for further support to cope with the emerging pandemic situation.

The project will also equip designated health facilities with personal protective equipment and hygienic materials and increase the diagnostic capacity of laboratories for responding to public health emergencies, as per World Bank.

Furthermore, the project will enhance the National Public Health Laboratory to handle harmful infectious diseases and strengthen public institutions to coordinate and better manage response activities at all three levels of government.

“Given the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government’s rapid response will help save lives across Nepal,” said Hadad-Zervos, adding, “The World Bank and its development partners are committed to helping Nepal beef up its health infrastructure and access the resources it needs to fight the spread of COVID-19 and protect the livelihoods of its people.”

The project is financed from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s concessional credit window for developing countries, through the World Bank Group’s COVID-19 Fast- Track Facility.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 08, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.