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The SAARC Development Fund (SDF) has allocated USD 5 million (M) to help the member states respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The fund will be given to eligible proponents from the member states under its social window.

All eight SAARC member states can submit Covid-19-related proposals for the fund upon fulfilling certain criteria. The first criterion is that there should be at least three SAARC countries proposing a project.

Secondly, a minimum of 50 percent cash should come from co-funding proponents of a project. However, the SDF can consider 100 percent grant for project proposals originating from SAARC bodies, government and autonomous bodies of a government.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector can submit applications for the fund.

But such proponents should be registered in any of the SAARC member countries and have the experience of working continuously for a minimum of five years in the relevant field with a commitment of 50 percent cash co-funding.

Chief executive officer (CEO) of SDF, Dr Sunil Motiwal, said: “The objective of the USD 5 million allocation is to provide fund support to the member states in their efforts and to protect the people of the SAARC member states by mitigating the financial losses and severe socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

As per SDF Charter Article 4(2), the social window would primarily fund projects on poverty alleviation, social development focusing on education, health, human resource development, support to vulnerable and disadvantaged segment of society.

The fund will be used to address the needs of communities and micro-enterprises and develop rural infrastructure.

All eligible project proposals submitted to SDF, CEO Dr Sunil Motiwal, said will be reviewed and due diligence would be ensured.

“The approval process, project implementation, fund disbursement, management, monitoring and reporting shall be as per the existing SDF-Board approved policy, and practices of SDF and Social Window,” he said.

He added that SDF would follow a fact-track system for appraisal and approval of projects.

According to the WHO, the eight SAARC member states of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka have reported a total of 8,282 confirmed cases, according to the SDF.

As of yesterday, India reported 4,281 cases, Pakistan 3,403, Afghanistan 299, Sri Lanka 178, Bangladesh 88 and Maldives 19. Nepal and Bhutan reported nine and five cases respectively.

Since its inception in April 2010, the SDF is mandated to build regional integration and economic cooperation through project funding in all the eight SAARC member countries through its economic, infrastructure and social windows.

Currently, SDF is implementing 90 projects in all SAARC member states with a total fund commitment of USD 198.24. The SDF has completed 48 projects benefiting thousands of people in the region.