ISLAMABAD-The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $100 million results-based loan to help strengthen the quality of secondary healthcare in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The program will help improve the delivery of health services at secondary hospitals by modernizing infrastructure and equipment; ensuring clinical protocols, standards, and guidelines are implemented; and improving human resources planning and medicine supply chain management.

“While the coronavirus placed an enormous strain on essential health services in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and across the country, Pakistan now faces unprecedented flooding exacerbating the risk of waterborne diseases,” said ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Yevgeniy Zhukov. “This program will make a key contribution to improving the quality of secondary hospital services in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. And while it was conceived before the monsoon, it will also help people physically injured by the floods and support efforts to control the spread of infectious diseases.”

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s health sector faces significant challenges including outdated secondary health care facilities and equipment, and inadequate quality assurance standards and processes. The province suffers from high infant and maternal mortality rates, at 53 per 1,000 live births and 165 per 100,000, respectively.

“ADB’s assistance will help sustain health reforms started by the provincial government and strengthen the resilience of the health systems to future pandemics,” said ADB Senior Health Specialist for Central and West Asia Hiddo Huitzing. “It will benefit an estimated 38 million people, including women in need of maternal health care services, and will also create jobs in the health sector.”

Since 1966, ADB has committed over $37 billion in loans, grants, and other forms of financing to promote inclusive economic growth in Pakistan and improve the country’s infrastructure, energy and food security, transport networks, and social services. The government is also seeking $1.5 billion from the ADB to improve its foreign exchange reserves and meeting requirements related to floods. In response to the floods, ADB is preparing a significant response package to support people, livelihoods, and infrastructure immediately and in the long-term. The bank has already approved a $3 million grant to fund the immediate purchase of relief goods such as food supplies and tents. ADB is also processing a separate countercyclical package to help Pakistan weather the impacts of external shocks.

Heavy rains across Pakistan have triggered flash floods, landslides, and glacial lake outbursts. In July, the country received more than 60% of average annual monsoon rainfall in just 3 weeks. Over 33 million people are estimated to have been affected by the floods with more than 1,000 deaths reported and about 1,500 injured. Almost half a million people are currently in relief camps. Pakistan has identified several priority needs, including food security, agriculture and livestock, health, water, sanitation, hygiene, shelter, and nonfood items. ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.