The SAARC Development Fund (SDF), in late July, approved USD 7.7 million in grant aid under its Social Window to support member states in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to SDF, a total of seven countries from the eight member states will be awarded the grant, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The individual projects were proposed from the respective health ministries of each country and were finalized during the 33rd SDF Board Meeting held during July 28 and 29th.
Under the grant, Afghanistan will USD 1.54 million, while Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan will recieve USD 1 million, and Sri Lanka will receive a total of USD 1.2 million in grant provisions.
SDF's CEO Dr Sunil Motiwal said the grant would strengthen COVID-19 responses and benefit the entire population of SAARC member states as a whole.
“SDF’s COVID-19 funding will provide member states with emergency support to enhance the capacity of the frontline workers and health personnel, and help procure important medical goods and supplies", said Dr Motiwal.
“We are happy that SDF is able to provide our contribution and support to the member countries during such a difficult period".
The grant will be utilized by the countries to enhance ICU and isolation facilities in regional health centres, purchase PPE kits, ventilator machines, testing kits, and strengthen surveillance.
Furthermore, SDF aims to promote health awareness and social mobilization targeted towards vulnerable groups, and to devise prevention and response strategies through the grant.
The SDF is mandated to build regional integration and economic cooperation through project funding in member states. Since its inception in April 2010, the SDF is headed by eight member states, with the Secretariat based in Thimphu, Bhutan.
Currently, SDF is implementing over 100 projects across all member nations under its three funding windows with a total fund commitment of USD 214 million.
A total of 54 projects have been completed within the last 10 years, benefitting thousands of people in SAARC countries.