THE African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved US $8.9 million, about K162 billion, for six SADC countries, including Zambia, under its COVID-19 response facility.
According to a statement released Friday, the Bank approved a further $683,000 for the Atlantic Ocean island of São Tomé & Príncipe under the same facility.
The grants are meant to bolster COVID-19-related control measures in the respective countries.
As at June 24, the 16-nation Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) had recorded around 120,000 COVID-19 cases out of a continent-wide total of 325,000.
São Tomé and Príncipe which has a population of 211,000, has its reported coronavirus cases standing at about 700.
The AfDB stated that the funds would facilitate the procurement of laboratory and medical supplies, including testing kits, personal protective gear and non-invasive ventilators in Lesotho, Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Bank has also appointed the SADC secretariat as the recipient and implementing agency of the grant.
AfDB stated that the financing would reinforce the SADC ’s capacity to coordinate pandemic response measures, including surveillance and sensitisation in the six beneficiary countries.
The Bank stated that those SADC countries and São Tomé & Príncipe had inadequate resources and capacity to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic, which had put a strain on their already fragile health systems.
“As a result, these countries are now struggling to respond effectively to the fast-evolving situation posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” noted the Bank.
Although the spread of COVID-19 has been slow in Africa, it continues to steadily spread through the continent, leaving in its wake disruptions and hardship caused by economic lockdowns.
The pandemic is projected to have a substantial economic impact on the SADC member countries. The AfDB observed that, for instance, real GDP in all the SADC countries, except Zimbabwe, is forecast to contract in 2020.
The AfDB stated that the approved project aligns with two of the Bank’s high five priority areas namely improving the quality of life for the people of Africa and integrating Africa, as well as the SADC disaster preparedness and response mechanism to fight disasters and pandemics.