The Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF) is a large multi-sector local development project that the World Bank has supported through three phases of IDA financing worth over $123 million. The PRF has improved access to basic services for 1.2 million rural people through more than 5,000 community infrastructure projects in the poorest districts of the country. In target villages, access to an improved water source increased by nearly 60%, and travel time to the nearest village was reduced. Under the latest World Bank support, the PRF has scaled up production and consumption of nutritious foods in four northern provinces (Oudomxay, Phongsaly, Houaphan and Xieng Khouang) where the incidence of child stunting is high. A recent impact evaluation of the PRF’s Road Maintenance Groups found these groups have significantly increased women’s engagement in paid work. a particularly relevant finding as options are examined for economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Lao PDR COVID-19 Response Project, approved in April 2020 and expanded in mid-2021, has a total project value of $33 million. The project helped Laos upgrade its target of vaccinating 50% of the population by the end of 2021 to a revised goal of 70%. By March 2022, over 5.9 million people – 70% of the population – had received a first dose of vaccine, while 60% had received two doses and 13% three doses. In addition, almost 80% of children aged 12 and over had been vaccinated. The project delivers emergency medical equipment and supplies, enhancing the technical capacity of health professionals at the frontline, and building isolation facilities, intensive care units and laboratories. The Bank has also been conducting a series of COVID-19 Rapid Monitoring Phone Surveys across Laos since mid-2020, gathering and analyzing data on the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.
To address the urgent issue of nutrition, the World Bank finances a series of projects under the title “Nutrition Convergence,” taking a holistic approach towards the reduction of stunting among Lao children. In four northern provinces, projects support government efforts to improve water supply and sanitation, health and nutrition, social protection, education, and agriculture. The first phase (2019-24) targets households in the twelve poorest districts. In the first quarter of 2021, pregnant women in these districts started receiving cash transfers to supplement their children’s health and nutritional status.
At the same time, the Health and Nutrition Services Access Project, approved in March 2020, is working to strengthen the Lao health system and improve the quality and coverage of health and nutrition services by providing funds to health centers and departments using results-based instruments. It will help tackle childhood stunting by increasing access to and use of nutrition interventions.
The nationwide Global Partnership for Education (GPE) III Project supports learning activities in pre-primary and primary classrooms, allowing more children to enter school ready to learn, thanks to community child development groups, a reading readiness program, and screening to help provide extra resources to children with disabilities. The initiative incorporates features designed to make up for learning time lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since 2018, the Competitiveness and Trade Project has been supporting government efforts to simplify business regulations, facilitate trade, and improve the competitiveness of private firms. This is central to Laos’ economic development as a landlocked country reliant on trade and tourism. The project’s Business Assistance Facility helps private enterprises access business development services to improve management and innovation capacity, and has made particular efforts to ensure women entrepreneurs have good access to the benefits it provides. In June 2021, the project received additional financing of $6.5 million to improve the resilience of firms directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supporting the government’s green growth strategy, the Scaling-Up Participatory Sustainable Forest Management Project is helping build a solid foundation for the strategically important forest sector in Laos. The project has worked with over 100,000 people, largely from ethnic minorities, in over 650 forest villages. Livelihood support and casual employment in forest restoration have reduced the deforestation rate and saved an estimated 1.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions. Work on management plans for state production forests and third-party certification of wood products has helped to modernize the sector and to create the new Forestry Law of 2019. Complementing this effort, the Second Lao Environment and Social Project strengthens environmental management capacity by publicly disclosing air pollution data and environmental and social impact assessments, and by improving the management of 11 protected areas. The project promotes conservation-friendly livelihoods in 189 villages and is strengthening the capacity to curb the illegal wildlife trade, a critical factor in preventing future pandemics like COVID-19 arising from zoonoses.
These initiatives are now backed up by the Lao Landscapes and Livelihoods Project, which takes a comprehensive landscape approach to managing the forest estate. The initiative supports the creation of local green jobs in environmentally and socially sustainable timber plantations, while restoring degraded production forest areas. The promotion of nature-based tourism through a matching grant scheme for local tourism companies, helps ensure the financial sustainability of the growing protected area system, employing local and ethnic communities in conservation-oriented activities.
To tackle climate change, the Bank has helped the Lao government sign up to an Emission Reductions Purchase Agreement, through which the state can receive up to $42 million in results-based payments for cutting greenhouse gas emissions caused by deforestation and forest degradation. The scheme is being piloted in the six northern provinces through an active coalition of development partners and donors under the World Bank’s environmental and social framework.
Last Updated: Apr 06, 2022