Staff Reporter 

The Gross National Happiness Commission and UNDP Bhutan signed a partnership agreement on July 2 to mark the start of a new UNDP-supported Covid-19 response and recovery project funded by the Government of Japan (GoJ). The Ambassador of Japan to Bhutan, Satoshi Suzuki joined the signing remotely from New Delhi, India.

The project “Innovation for a Smarter, Greener and More Resilient 21st Century Bhutan” is worth USD 1.9 million out of which USD 1.55M is programmable budget.

It is part of a global UNDP project geared towards Covid-19 response and recovery and Bhutan is one of the 11 countries in the Asia Pacific, and 29 globally, selected for the funding, a joint press release stated.

The project, which will be implemented over the next nine months, will strengthen the country’s health systems and address socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.

UNDP will partner with the health ministry to introduce innovative solutions, such as mobile cardiotocography, in select hospitals. These will help take healthcare services closer to the people, particularly expectant mothers living in far-flung corners of the country.

Ensuring safer and more efficient medical waste management is another area of support under the health systems support. The project will support procurement and establishment of incinerators to manage hazardous waste, capacity development of medical waste handlers and explore partnerships with the private sector.

The socio-economic response is the other area of support. Technical support will be provided to strengthen the government’s macroeconomic framework for policy impact analyses, while also providing support to improve the Cottage and Small Industries (CSIs) through a value chain analysis of essential products and identifying appropriate business solutions.

The project will provide livelihood and upskilling and reskilling opportunities to vulnerable populations.

It will provide technical support and guidance to establish the Bhutan Innovation Hub (BIH) and in identifying a strategic direction for the country’s innovation eco-system.

The project will support the establishment of a 200KW solar farm at Rubesa, Wangdue in partnership with the Department of Renewable Energy and Bhutan Power Corporation Limited.

“The support is very timely as this will help the government’s rebuilding efforts towards a new normal for which we would like to thank the Government of Japan for the generous contribution made through UNDP,” said a GNHC official during the signing.