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World Bank in $72M loan to Laos

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The World Bank has agreed to finance three major projects in Laos designed to reduce malnutrition in children. VIENTIANE TIMES

World Bank in $72M loan to Laos

THE World Bank has agreed to finance three major projects in Laos designed to reduce malnutrition in children and improve public resource use and service delivery.

The bank’s Board of Executive Directors last week approved $72 million in the form of a concessional loan to finance the projects, according to a media release from the World Bank Lao PDR Country Office.

Explaining the reasons for funding these areas of development, World Bank director for Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia, Ellen Goldstein, said: “One in every three children in Laos remains chronically malnourished, and maternal and child malnutrition is estimated to cost Laos an estimated 2.4 per cent of national income annually. We want to support Laos in developing its precious human capital by tackling malnutrition.

“We have adopted an innovative multi-sectoral and long-term nutrition convergence approach in which multiple World Bank-financed operations come together to intervene across key sectors, while converging on the same households in the same geographic locations. We expect this will be most effective in getting results to eliminate stunting.”

According to the World Bank’s media release, households in four northern provinces with high levels of malnutrition will benefit from the $25 million Scaling-Up Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Project, which will provide access to improved water supply, sanitation, and hygiene services.

These same families are targeted by the $27 million Reducing Rural Poverty and Malnutrition Project, which supports the government to strengthen the building blocks of a national social protection system and implement a conditional cash transfer programme for improved nutrition.

The innovative multi-sectoral nutrition convergence approach will come together in Xieng Khuang, Huaphan, Phongsaly and Oudomxay provinces.

In these areas, chronic malnutrition affects over 40 per cent of all children under five, with long-term adverse impacts on height, brain development and their ability to succeed later in life. These two new projects complement three others supported by the World Bank in health, education and diversified food production.

The $20 million Enhancing Public Finance Management through Information and Communication Technology and Skills Project builds on reforms already undertaken to put in place a basic public financial management framework.

World Bank country manager for Laos Nicola Pontara said: “The project supports a new financial management information system which will improve the coverage, timeliness and transparency of financial reporting in Laos. It also supports a new public finance management skills training programme.

“More efficient and transparent financial management can benefit the entire population in the long-term by improving public service delivery through the better use of public funds.”

The preparation and implementation of this project is supported by the Public Finance Management Reform Programme, funded by the EU, which is providing technical assistance and capacity building. VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK