Bangladesh contributes 1.5m US$ to SAARC fight against COVID-19

Bangladesh has decided to contribute 1.5 million US dollar to proposed SAARC’s health hazard prevention fund to combat deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

“Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today verbally approved the fund in favour of SAARC secretariat to face health hazards due to outbreak of the coronavirus in the South Asia,” Foreign minister Dr A K Abdul Momen told BSS here today.

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India has already announced to give 10 million US dollar to the fund while Nepal and Afghanistan declared to provide USD 1 million each and Maldives and Bhutan committed 200,000 and 100,000 US dollars respectively.

Pakistan and Sri Lanka are yet to declare any amount for the fund. “We are expecting Sri Lanka also will announce their commitment soon,” Momen said.

He said the foreign ministry will send note verbal to SAARC secretariat and Indian government about Bangladesh’s commitment to provide USD 1.5 million to the SAARC health hazard prevention fund.

Indian premier Narendra Modi has proposed creation of the special voluntary fund to fight coronavirus while the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) leaders met together at a virtual summit through video conferencing on combating coronavirus or COVID-19 on March 15.

Foreign minister Dr Momen said during the video conference, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina suggested that the SAARC secretariat could coordinate the regional collaboration on the coronavirus for the safety and security of the people in the region.

Momen said premier Hasina had proposed for establishing an institution to prevent and fight against any public health threat in the South Asian region in future. “We have also proposed to host such an institution in our country,” he said.

The foreign minister said Bangladesh would like to see the health hazard prevention fund to be administered by the SAARC secretariat to reduce public health risks in the region.

Momen said there are various funds under different SARRC protocols like tackling natural disaster and ensuring food security but “Unfortunately there was so far no such protocol of preventing health hazards… this time we have created it.”

The minister said currently, this health hazard prevention SAARC fund will be used to combat COVID-19 but later it will be utilized to deal with preventing people of this region from other health risks.

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide reached at least 303,180 till Saturday with more than 11,000 deaths while South Asia appears to have been less hard hit than elsewhere in the world but the rate of new infections in SAARC nations is accelerating.

Bangladesh so far reported two deaths and 24 COVID-19 positive cases while India confirmed six deaths out of 341 infected.

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