The Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $250-million loan to support Papua New Guinea’s response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to the lender’s announcement.

ADB said its program will the government finance and implement its $769-million pandemic response plan that includes an economic stimulus package.

PNG declared a state of emergency on 21 March and the subsequent public health emergency, closure of its borders, lockdowns, and other response measures have put pressure on the country’s health system and economy.

Among ADB’s Pacific developing members, only PNG is currently affected by community transmission of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating health, social, and economic impact on PNG,” said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa. “ADB is committed to supporting the government in responding to this pandemic. These funds will help in containing the health and economic impact of the pandemic by strengthening the country’s health sector and providing much-needed budgetary support for revitalizing the economy.”

The program will help strengthen PNG’s health system by building temporary isolation facilities for COVID-19 patients, training frontline health workers, rapidly procuring test kits and personal protective equipment, and improving the water supply for communities, schools, and clinics.

It will provide social assistance and food security to vulnerable groups, particularly those affected by income and job losses. Some 5,000 people in Port Moresby will receive food rations, delivered through local churches.

The program will also provide assistance to small businesses and rural producers, including subsidized lending, loans for women-owned businesses, price support for farmers, support to purchase seedlings for 10,000 smallholder farmers and poor rural households, and hygiene improvements in local markets to allow trading to continue.

ADB added that the program is funded through the COVID-19 pandemic response option (CPRO) under ADB’s Countercyclical Support Facility.

CPRO was established as part of ADB’s $20 billion expanded assistance for developing members to respond to COVID-19, which was announced on 13 April. ADB also provided a $1.5 million grant from its Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund to PNG in July to help mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. –