KATHMANDU: SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund has disbursed a total of Rs 138.9 million to member nations.
Nepal got a lion’s share of the funding, according to information provided by the government in response to an RTI application.
As per the information provided by the MEA in response to an RTI query made by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative lawyer Shikha Chhibbar, medical supplies consisting of essential medicines and equipment amounting to Rs 61.2 million was provided to Nepal, which was the biggest beneficiary of the funds provided by India.
Bangladesh was the second-biggest recipient of COVID-19 funds from India, getting aid worth Rs 36.4 million.
Bhutan got aid amounting to Rs 16.9 million, and Sri Lanka was provided aid worth Rs 15.5 million. Maldives got aid amounting to Rs 6.014 million. Afghanistan got the least aid at Rs 2.093 million.
Chhibbar had filed the RTI query with MEA on June 19, 2020, seeking details of expenditure incurred from the total contribution of 10 million US dollars sanctioned by India for the SAARC COVID-19 fund.
On the modalities of disbursal of funds, the government said a member state in need of assistance from the fund is required to channel their request through the Indian missions or through the MEA. It was stated that all expenditure related to COVID-19 assistance to any of the SAARC countries is being incurred under the COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
At the initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a video conference of SAARC leaders on combating COVID-19 was held on March 15, 2020.
During the meeting, among other initiatives, India had proposed to create a COVID-19 emergency fund based on voluntary contributions from the member countries.
India made an initial offer of 10 million US dollars of unilateral contribution to the fund to meet the costs of immediate actions.
The government said the contributions made to the fund are voluntary and outside the SAARC framework and therefore the SAARC secretariat in Kathmandu has no role in coordinating with the Ministry of External Affairs of India for monitoring the utilisation of expenditure done from SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.