Dhaka contributing $1.5m to SAARC coronavirus funds

Dhaka contributing $1.5m to SAARC coronavirus funds

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Bangladesh is going to contribute $1.5 million to a proposed fund for the SAARC region to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the foreign minister says. Dr AK Abdul Momen confirmed to Bangladesh Post that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday approved the fund in favour of SAARC secretariat.

“As per the procedure, we’ll send note verbal to SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu and the Indian government about our commitment,” he said. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week in rare videoconferencing with SAARC leaders proposed a coronavirus emergency fund for the SAARC member countries and offered $10 million on behalf of his nation to start the fund.

“I propose we create a COVID-19 emergency fund. This could be based on voluntary contributions from all of us. India can start with an initial offer of $10 million for this fund,” he said at the unprecedented videoconferencing of the South Asian leaders united by SAARC. Modi said foreign secretaries of the member states will follow up the process and draft the modalities.

The Bangladesh prime minister, Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani joined the videoconferencing responding to the Modi’s call to chalk out a strategy to fight the pandemic coronavirus.

Pakistan was represented by Dr Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Health. After the videoconferencing, Nepal and Afghanistan announced that they will provide $1 million each, and Maldives and Bhutan committed $200,000 and $100,000 respectively. Pakistan and Sri Lanka are yet to declare any amount.

The foreign minister while talking to Bangladesh Post said he hoped that all will participate in the process. “Its an emergency fund for health. We don’t have such funds in SAARC. This will be helpful for all nations,” he said. During the videoconferencing, Prime Minister Hasina offered help for the SAARC countries with technical expertise and resources.

She stressed the need for continued dialogue at the official as well as expert level and suggested that the SAARC secretariat could coordinate the regional collaboration on the coronavirus for the safety and security of the people. The prime minister also proposed establishing an institution to prevent and fight against any public health threat in the region in future. She also proposed hosting it in Bangladesh.

The pandemic virus has killed over 13,000 people infecting more than 300,000 worldwide so far. Europe is the present epicentre. The prevalence in South Asia, home to world’s one-fifth population, still remained a low. But it is rising by the day. Bangladesh first reported three cases on March 8. As of Saturday, the number rose to 24. Of them, two died.

There are various funds under different SARRC protocols like tackling natural disaster and ensuring food security. But there is no such protocol of preventing health hazards as of now. Initially this proposed fund will be used for the coronavirus prevention. Later it can be used for any health hazards, a senior official at the foreign ministry indicates.

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