ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA (30 March 2021) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved today a $100 million loan to strengthen Mongolia’s health sector and its response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Mongolia remains vulnerable to COVID-19 and other emerging diseases. A surge in infections would strain the health system and result in a shortage of quarantine facilities, necessary equipment, drugs, and other essential resources,” said ADB Director General for East Asia James Lynch. “The project will expedite the medium-term reforms that will strengthen the health system and help Mongolia become better prepared to respond to future health crises.”

The government initiated stringent emergency measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mongolia. These actions delayed community spread. However, the government estimates about 60% of the population is at high risk of infection. According to a 2017 World Health Organization evaluation, Mongolia’s core capacities relating to pandemic preparedness are limited, suggesting Mongolia is ill-prepared for a surge of COVID-19 or a similar pandemic.

Mongolia’s health system urgently requires new regulations for medicines. The prevalence of substandard (10.1%), unregistered (4.3%), and falsified (0.8%) medicines in Mongolia is also one of the highest in the world. Pharmaceutical regulation is also highly fragmented. Pharmaceutical inefficiencies also lead to significant constraints as Mongolia rolls out its COVID-19 vaccination program.

The project will focus on four reform areas: strengthening planning and preparedness of the health sector, and ensuring the availability of critical medicines and emergency supplies; improving national pharmaceutical regulation, and increasing hospital autonomy and good governance; enhancing procurement in the health sector to increase efficiency, and establishing a single purchaser for health services; and safeguarding fiscal sustainability of the government over the next 3–5 years.

To strengthen planning capacity and preparedness of the health sector, the government will develop an integrated incident management system that coordinates across multiple systems and organizational structures during health emergencies. The government will also develop an intersectoral management information database that will facilitate data sharing during disasters.

ADB is one of Mongolia’s long-standing and key partners in the health sector. Since 1993, investments have supported the government in critical health system reforms including several major laws passed by the Mongolian parliament and high-priority investment projects.

ADB has also provided comprehensive support to Mongolia during the COVID-19 pandemic, including grants to procure emergency health equipment, a $30 million loan to support disease control in the health sector, a $73 million loan in March 2021 to improve social welfare support for the poor and vulnerable, a $26.4 million loan to strengthen social protection measures for vulnerable groups, and technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of the domestic violence response in the country. In addition, $100 million was provided under ADB’s Comprehensive Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic to support the government to manage the economic impact and respond to the health and social protection needs the pandemic has created. ADB is considering a vaccine support project, to be financed from its Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility.

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.

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