Pandemic Fund Project launched

To enhance the country’s capacity in pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response through the One Health approach, a Pandemic Fund Project was launched yesterday. One Health approach aims to enhance the health of people and animals. The project worth over USD 4 M which is about Nu 410 M will be jointly carried out by the health, and agriculture and livestock ministries with the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization as the implementation partners.

Bhutan is among the 16 countries that were selected from 133 countries that proposed for the fund from the Pandemic Fund Secretariat of the World Bank.

The key areas of investment identified for this project are for operationalisation of the Bhutan One Health Secretariat, strengthening surveillance and early warning systems, upgrading laboratory systems and investing in human resource capacity.

The Bhutan One Health Secretariat was inaugurated in 2020 and it is located at the Royal Centre for Disease Control in Serbithang in Thimphu.

The Pandemic Fund Project is for three years and will end in 2026.

“The result was declared in August 2023 and the actual implementation began in January 2024. It has been six months since we have been implementing this project. We have been able to implement mainly in the areas of human resource capacity building basically in the areas of providing long-term training in the fields of epidemiology, laboratory, Intensive care and emergency,” said Deki Yangzom, Pandemic Fund Coordinator of Bhutan One Health Secretariat.

Regarding the implementation progress, she said that since January, various long-term and short-term training and activities have started.

These include fellowship opportunities for health staff at the Intensive Care Unit, master’s degree courses as well as training in graphic design and animation, critical care and zoonotic disease prioritisation among others.

“This is a three-year project in which One Health project is being promoted. Both animal health and human health will be taken care of. It is a coordination effort and already the government has formed a committee to monitor the activities related to this project. This Pandemic Fund is allowing us to improve our preparedness in terms of surveillance, in terms of laboratory capacity, in terms of human resources,” said Dr Bhupindra Kaur Aulakh, Country Representative of WHO Bhutan.

She added that the COVID-19 pandemic revealed many areas which require improvement when it comes to preparedness and response. The Pandemic Fund will help address these gaps.

The WHO Country Representative said the WHO has provided training to the health ministry, nurses, doctors and the Bhutan Food and Drug Authority to improve their pandemic handling capacities.

The event was also attended by members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee of One Health and other officials representing One Health Stakeholders.

Sonam Dendup and Tashi Chezom

Edited by Tshering Zam 

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