KATHMANDU, April 13: The SAARC member states that contributed to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund of the regional block have reached an understanding to mobilize the amount to supply medicines, medical equipment and other logistics available in their respective countries if any of the member states makes request for these medical supplies.
The SAARC members states except Pakistan reached the understanding to utilize the amount to provide medical supplies after there was no consensus on the proposal of Islamabad to place the fund under the SAARC Secretary General and develop a modality to utilize the fund through consultations among member states in advance.
Pakistan has chosen not to deposit an amount in the COVID-19 Emergency Fund amid differences whether the fund should be administered by the SAARC Secretary General.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Bharat Raj Poudyal said the member states have reached an understanding to utilize the fund to extend support to other member states in need to fight against the COVID-19. "Member states shall utilize the fund they have deposited to provide essential medical supplies that other other member states are in need of as per the understanding," said Paudyal.
Officials at MoFA said India, for instance, has already started providing various medical supplies to various SAARC member states including Nepal, the Maldives, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka by utilizing the fund it deposited earlier in the COVID-19 Emergency Fund. The understanding reached among member states allows countries to procure medical supplies available in their respective countries and send them to the countries in need as per their request.
During a video conference with SAARC leaders on March 16, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proposed to set up the SAARC Emergency Fund for COVID-19, while pledging $10 million to the Fund. All other member states of the regional bloc, except Pakistan, have announced their pledges for the fund, which now cumulatively stands at $18.8 million.
While Sri Lanka has pledged to contribute $5m, Bangladesh has contributed $1.5 million to the fund. Nepal and Afghanistan have each contributed $1m and Maldives and Bhutan have provided $ 0.2 million and $0.1 million, respectively, to the Fund.
The cases of COVID-19 in South Asia are on the rise despite the fact that the countries have already enforced nationwide lockdowns to contain the spread of the fatal virus. While Nepal so far has a total 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19, India has so far recorded a total 8, 356 positive cases and 273 deaths as a result of this virus. Other SAARC member states have also started witnessing a rise in the cases of COVID-19.