ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Pakistan Tuesday signed a $2 million grant agreement to strengthen Pakistan’s efforts to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Secretary of the Economic Affairs Division, Noor Ahmed and ADB Country Director for Pakistan, Xiaohong Yang signed the agreement. The grant financed from the Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund, will help provide life-saving medical supplies, diagnostic and laboratory facilities and other critical equipment for communities affected by the pandemic. Ms Yang and representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Pakistan Aida Girma signed the administrative agreement, which will enable UNICEF to procure the supplies and equipment using the grant. “ADB continues to work closely with the Government of Pakistan and development partners to assist Pakistan in sustaining the gains made in combating the pandemic” said ADB Country Director for Pakistan Xiaohong Yang. “The grant to be administered through UNICEF will help strengthen Pakistan’s response to the COVID-19 challenge. Pakistan needs to maintain its strong efforts to contain the pandemic through robust prevention and control measures as well as by ensuring the provision of essential medical and emergency healthcare facilities, considering the recent increase in the infection rates.” ALSO READ 1,123 new Coronavirus cases reported; 12 deaths in past 24 hours The grant supplements an initial $500,000 provided by ADB through UNICEF to support Pakistan’s procurement of emergency supplies and personal protective equipment. These have been delivered to doctors, nurses, and other medical staff in major health facilities prioritized by the government. “Since the outbreak of the pandemic, UNICEF has been at the forefront supporting the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in the country, said UNICEF Representative in Pakistan,” Aida Girma. “More specifically, UNICEF has supported the national response in risk communication and community engagement by ensuring timely and accurate information to families and communities and promoting positive behaviour to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, and procured life-saving medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE). We have also endeavoured to ensure continuation of essential services including immunization and health, nutrition, education, child protection and water, sanitation and hygiene. We appreciate the Asian Development Bank’s continued and generous financial support to UNICEF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic”. ALSO READ Pakistan condemns terrorist attack in Vienna In April, ADB reallocated $30 million from the National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF) to support Pakistan’s pandemic response. The NDRMF Board of Directors allocated an additional $20 million from earned interest from the Endowment Fund capitalized under the project. In May, ADB approved a $300 million emergency assistance loan to solidify Pakistan’s public health response to the pandemic and help reboot economic activities. The Government of Norway has also contributed a $5.28 million grant to be administered through ADB to strengthen the emergency response system in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province amid the COVID-19 crisis. In June, the bank approved a $500 million budget support loan to help deliver social protection programs to the poor and vulnerable, expand health sector capabilities, and deliver a pro-poor fiscal stimulus to boost growth and create jobs.