The Financial Express

Fighting virus: Donors pledge $260m lifeline

| Updated: April 02, 2020 11:35:45

Evaly and Fianancial Express Evaly and Fianancial Express
An illustrative image. — FE Photo An illustrative image. — FE Photo

Five development partners have assured Bangladesh of providing US$260 million after the government pleaded for a lifeline to combat the new coronavirus pandemic, officials said on Wednesday.

Other bilateral and multilateral development partners have also stood by the country with rapid grants, commodity and medical equipment, they said.

Officials at the Economic Relations Division said the World Bank, or WB, the Asian Development Bank, or ADB, the Islamic Development Bank, or IsDB, the UKAid, the Swedish SIDA has pledged the amount to help Bangladesh strengthen its disease control capacity and respond immediately to the highly contagious Covid-19, an illness caused by the virus.

Besides, the Chinese government has come forward with virus testing kits, medical masks, infrared thermometer and some other necessary equipment, they said.

A senior ERD official said the Japanese government has assured the government of providing some necessary medical equipment and materials to test Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Health Ministry has requested different development partners through the ERD to extend support needed to slow the spread of human-to-human transmission of the deadly virus.

The ERD official told the FE that they have already got the assurance of getting $100 million from the WB, another $100 million from the ADB and $30 to $50 million from the IsDB.

The British donor agency has assured of providing $6.0 million and the Swedish donor agency SIDA $2.0 million in grant, he added.

The ADB has recently confirmed the release of $300,000 grant as a quick respond fund from its $2.0 million aid vehicle set up recently to support its member countries hit hard by the virus, the ERD official said.

A Health Ministry official told the FE that they had sought some 10-12 medical items from Japan, the country's largest bilateral development partner, including testing kits, PCR machine for the testing labs, 0.5 million hand gloves and masks.

"Basically, the funds from all donors will be utilised for upgrading the country's public sector health services so that it can better respond to emergencies in future," he said.

"This time we have been facing the coronavirus attack. But in future we may need to prepare for the possible attacks of communicable diseases," the official said, adding the aid will be used to upgrade the testing and treatment facilities.

The ministry is examining the possibility of expanding the operations of the country's lone disease control agency in divisional cities, the health ministry official said.

The idea is to expand Bangladesh's research, examination, testing facilities for any types of viral, bacterial or other types of infections in human and animal bodies, he added.

Admitting Bangladesh's weak testing and research facilities, another Health Ministry official said the fund will help boost the medical services capacity of the government.

Meanwhile, the ERD official said the government had also sought budgetary support from three major development partners, including the WB, the International Monetary Fund and the ADB to weather the possible macro-economic shocks from the virus pandemic.

Finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal in a video conference with multilateral lenders had sought the support in late March.

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