New Delhi: Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa and Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani today discussed how ADB can support the country’s fight against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, including through a new $40 million grant.
“The pandemic has led to a tragic loss of lives and has significantly impacted the livelihoods of Afghans,” said Mr. Asakawa. “ADB is fully committed to supporting the country through these difficult times. Today, we approved a $40 million grant that will help increase Afghanistan’s capacity to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthen hospital facilities, acquire vital medicines, and train thousands of frontline health workers. We will continue building on our strong partnership to support Afghanistan as it pursues its longer-term development challenges.”
Mr. Asakawa reconfirmed ADB’s strong support for Afghanistan’s infrastructure development and reform process, and strengthening regional cooperation and integration including under the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program, which Afghanistan is chairing in 2020.
Mr. Ghani appreciated ADB’s swift response to help the country’s fight against COVID-19 and lauded the bank’s ongoing support for infrastructure development, which remains a high priority for the government. ADB Governor for Afghanistan and Acting Minister of Finance Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, and Acting Minister of Industry and Commerce Ajmal Ahmady also joined the teleconference.
ADB’s $40 million Emergency Assistance for COVID-19 Pandemic Response grant will support the construction of 15 hospitals and medical facilities equipped with isolation wards and intensive care units, adding more than 1,100 new hospital beds. It will also support the rehabilitation of five existing medical facilities following the “build back better” principle. The hospitals and medical facilities will be gender and culture sensitive, with dedicated wards for female patients, including pregnant women.
The grant will support the procurement of urgently needed medicines and medical equipment, and build the capacity and resilience of Afghanistan’s national health system to respond to public health emergencies including COVID-19. This will include training at least 3,000 health workers and support staff, 900 of whom will be women, in COVID-19 surveillance, prevention, testing, treatment, and risk management. Personal protective equipment and all necessary medical supplies will also be provided for these workers.
The grant complements efforts of other development partners and addresses a critical gap in patient treatment facilities and hospitals.
ADB is Afghanistan’s long-term development partner and brings in-depth experience of providing rapid support to the country in times of emergency. In 2014, after the massive floods that destroyed farmlands, roads, and agricultural infrastructure in 27 provinces of Afghanistan, ADB supported the restoration of about 100,000 hectares of flood-affected irrigable area and the repair of roads and bridges.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.