WorldBank Fast-Tracks $5 Million for Bhutan’s COVID-19 Response

Thimpu: The Royal Government of Bhutan and the World Bank today signed a fast-track $5 million COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project to help Bhutan prevent, detect, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen its public health preparedness. The agreement was signed by Finance Minister Lyonpo Namgay Tshering and Tenzin Lhaden, Acting Country Representative, on behalf of the World Bank.

The project provides emergency support to enhance Bhutan’s capacity to detect the cases of disease and ensure prompt contact tracing and early warning systems. It will also help train frontline workers, procure test kits, medical goods and supplies, acquire laboratory equipment, and support laboratory experts. The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Health through its various departments and divisions.

“The World Bank’s support will help the Royal Government of Bhutan contain the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen our capacities to deal with future public health risks,” stated Lyonpo Namgay Tshering, Finance Minister of Bhutan. “Immediately after the COVID-19 outbreak hit Bhutan, we made it a priority to address the potential health crisis and this project is critical to coordinating and managing better our response activities.”

The project will also equip designated health facilities with protective equipment and hygienic materials and increase the diagnostic capacity of critical medical services providers as they cope with a potential increase in demand. It will help establish specialized units in selected hospitals, design protocols to increase the availability of hospital beds, and ensure safe water and basic sanitation in health facilities, including the disposal of medical waste management.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, and the World Bank’s rapid response will help save lives across Bhutan,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan. “Our support will help Bhutan improve its health infrastructure and equip the country with the resources and expertise it needs to fight the spread of the coronavirus and protect the livelihoods of its people.”

To raise awareness about the risk and potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project will support communications campaigns across Bhutan. Such initiatives will ensure the real-time exchange of information on social distancing measures and promote good health habits and learning about the virus spread, treatment, and prevention.

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

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