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NEW DELHI: The Bhutan-based SAARC Development Fund (SDF) has allocated $5 million for projects aimed at stopping the spread of covid-19 in South Asia, a statement said on Tuesday.

The SAARC Development Fund is separate from that announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month during a video conference with the heads of government of all South Asian countries. Pakistan was represented by an official at the meeting.

“The objective of the $5 million allocation is to provide fund support to the Member States in their efforts and to protect the people of the SAARC Member States by mitigating the financial losses and severe socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," chief executive of SDF, Sunil Motiwal, said in a press statement.

SAARC refers to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation – a grouping modeled on the European Union that came into being in the mid-1980s – but has little to show for itself by way of regional or economic integration.

"As the virus continues to spread globally, the eight SAARC Member States - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - have reported 8,282 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus," according to the statement.

India has reported over 4,500 cases, Pakistan 3,403, Afghanistan 299, Sri Lanka 178, Bangladesh 88, Maldives 19, Nepal 9 and 5 in Bhutan, according to data from World Health Organization.

The $5 million will be used for poverty alleviation, social development focusing on education, health, human resource development, support to vulnerable or disadvantaged segment of society, funding needs of communities, micro-enterprises and rural infrastructure development, the statement said.

The SAARC Development Fund, since its inception in April 2010 by the heads of the eight SAARC Member States, is mandated to build regional integration and economic cooperation through project funding in all the eight SAARC Member States through its Economic, Infrastructure and Social segments. The SDF Secretariat is based in Thimphu.

Currently, SDF is implementing 90 projects in SAARC member states under its three funding windows with a total commitment of $198.24 million.

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