MANILA, PHILIPPINES (8 May 2020) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved $30 million in extra financing for a health sector project in Mongolia to strengthen the country’s preparedness and response to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The government has taken effective measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, but Mongolia remains vulnerable to any possible surge in the number of cases as well as future infectious diseases and public health emergencies,” said ADB Country Director for Mongolia Pavit Ramachandran. “This additional financing for the Fifth Health Sector Development Project will support the upgrading of key hospital facilities to better prepare for future emergencies and help prevent and control hospital-acquired infections.”
Since the outbreak began in mid-January, the government has initiated stringent emergency measures to prevent the spread of the virus into Mongolia. This has limited infections to a few dozen confirmed cases from overseas returnees. However, the government estimates that more than 150,000 Mongolians are currently overseas, of which 9,900 are waiting to return immediately from infected countries.
According to government estimates, 20% of the population (more than 772,000 people) are at high risk of COVID-19 infection, including the elderly and those with chronic diseases. Further, there is a shortage of essential equipment and medical supplies that would be required to address a potential surge of patients. Without a stronger disease surveillance and diagnostic system, Mongolia remains vulnerable to a rapid increase of COVID-19 cases and other public health emergencies.
ADB approved the Fifth Health Sector Development Project in December 2012, with ADB contributing the equivalent of $30 million to the $38.38 million project cost to promote safe blood transfusion services, medical waste management, and hospital hygiene. The World Health Organization provided cofinancing of $480,000.
This additional financing for the project will increase the coverage of upgraded sterilization departments to all referral (secondary and tertiary) hospitals nationwide and boost the capacity of hospitals to diagnose and treat COVID-19 patients, including by providing intensive care and ambulance services. It will also establish a warehouse to manage centralized stockpiles of medicines and medical devices in Ulaanbaatar.
ADB will continue to coordinate closely with development partners through the health sector committee to identify synergies and avoid duplication.
Since the onset of the pandemic, ADB has supported Mongolia in a number of ways. In February, ADB redirected $1.4 million from an existing loan to procure essential medical equipment and the following month approved technical assistance of $225,000 to assist in strengthening public health risk and resource mapping and coordination. On 26 March, ADB also provided a $1 million grant from the Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund primarily for medical supplies and other initial support required for dealing with the COVID-19 emergency.
ADB is processing a countercyclical program loan for $100 million under the COVID-19 pandemic response option to support the government’s stimulus initiatives to mitigate the severe negative economic impacts from COVID-19.
ADB’s COVID-19 response in Mongolia builds on its extensive experience in the health sector in the country since 1992. ADB is the Mongolian health sector’s lead development partner and has provided 57 loans, 8 grants, and 16 technical assistance projects to the sector, of which five are ongoing projects.
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.