The SAARC Development Fund (SDF) handed over Nu 36.66 million (M) to the health ministry in Thimphu yesterday as a Covid-19 emergency grant.

The amount is 50 percent of the total grant amount SDF pledged to provide to the health ministry. SDF committed to provide USD 1M (Nu 73.31M) to the ministry.

SDF’s officer-in-charge, Anuj Goel, handed the cheque of Nu 36.66M to health secretary Dr Pandup Tshering.  

Officials said the second tranche of the grant would be disbursed after 80 percent of the first allotment is utilised.

Dr Pandup Tshering said the fund would be used to set up an intensive care unit for Covid-19 centre at the eastern regional referral hospital in Mongar.

He also said that the grant would be mobilised to purchase personal protective equipment, ventilator machines, testing kits, strengthen surveillance and training of health workers.

Anuj Goel said the support would strengthen the pandemic response in Bhutan and augment the continuous efforts of all the member states towards protecting the people of the region. “We are glad that SDF is able to provide support to the member countries.”  

According to officials, SDF and the health ministry executed the project financing agreement this week, marking the project’s implementation.  

The USD 1M grant to Bhutan is a part of the USD 7.75M, which the SDF board had approved last year as a Covid-19 emergency grant to the SAARC member countries to combat the pandemic.

The project is funded under SDF’s social window.

SDF received project proposals from seven of the eight Member States – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka for the Covid-19 grant.  

By Thinley Namgay

Edited by Tashi Dema