The Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF) is a large multi-sector local development project that has been supported with $123.5 million through three phases of IDA financing. 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 percent, and travel time to the nearest village was reduced by an average of 114 minutes in the dry season and about 70 minutes in the wet season. 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 that 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 was approved in April 2020 to provide a quick response to the pandemic in Laos by enhancing technical capacity among health professionals at all levels and delivering emergency medical equipment and supplies to all 18 provinces. The Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Access to Finance Emergency Support and Recovery Project, approved in October 2020, helps small business weather the economic slowdown associated with the virus.
To address the urgent issue of nutrition the World Bank finances a series of projects titled “Nutrition Convergence”, taking a holistic approach towards the reduction of stunting among Lao children. In four northern provinces, projects support government efforts through a multi-sectoral approach 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 northern 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. The project will help tackle childhood stunting through a Multisectoral Nutrition Convergence Approach, by increasing access to and use of nutrition interventions. This work builds on the achievements of the Health Governance and Nutrition Development Project, which has improved the delivery of basic health services to around one million Lao women and children over the last five years.
In addition, since April 2014 the Early Childhood Education Project has been helping to improve the coverage and quality of education for 3- to 5-year old children in 11 provinces. This project promotes community-based construction grants for pre-primary classrooms and the establishment of Community Child Development Groups for 3- and 4-year-olds. Results so far show the project has benefited 53,000 children aged 3-5 and achieved significant improvements in enrollment, learning environment, and in both literacy and numeracy, plus a reduction in stunting. A new complementary project, Global Partnership for Education III, focuses on preparing pre-school children to enter school ready to learn, screening to help provide extra resources to children with disabilities, and targeted training and management systems to improve the environment for teaching and learning. The project incorporates features to help make up for learning time lost due to COVID-19.
The Competitiveness and Trade Project, approved in 2018, supports government efforts to simplify business regulations, facilitate trade, and improve competitiveness. New and existing Lao firms are starting to benefit from lower costs of doing business, easier procedures, and access to funding for business improvements. These reforms also benefit the public by generating job opportunities and stimulating competition, leading to lower prices and increased choice in goods. The project prioritizes reforms that benefit SMEs and women-led enterprises. Such reforms include streamlining of operating licenses and business registration, and easier documentation for import and export. The project Business Assistance Facility helps private enterprises access business development services and aims to improve company management and innovation. By July 2020, 61 matching grants were approved for firms in Laos.
Supporting the government’s green growth strategy, the Scaling-Up Participatory Sustainable Forest Management Project is helping to 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. Livelihoods support and casual employment in forest restoration has reduced the deforestation rate in Laos and saved 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 is helping to strengthen 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 backed up by the recently approved Lao Landscapes and Livelihoods Project, which will help communities in over 600 villages and 25 forest areas secure livelihoods and jobs from sustainably managed forests, including opportunities in timber and non-timber products, and nature-based tourism.
Last Updated: Apr 06, 2021