WASHINGTON, December 10, 2010 – Between May and September of 2010, consecutive natural disasters caused over 200 fatalities, affected over 500,000 people and caused considerable damage to the physical and productive infrastructure of Guatemala. The World Bank Board of Directors approved yesterday a US$100 million loan to provide emergency assistance to preserve health and education services in Guatemala following this series of natural disasters, which caused an estimated US$1.55 billion in damages and losses (4.1 percent of the nation’s GDP).
This emergency project will fund health workers and teachers’ salaries in the poorest municipalities of the country, helping to keep health facilities open and to sustain education coverage for 2.8 million vulnerable children while the Government devotes other financial resources to rebuilding efforts.
“The severe natural disasters of 2010 further aggravated Guatemala’s fiscal situation, which was already precarious after the global economic crisis of 2008-2009. This project will help preserve basic social services in health and education in support of the Recovery and Reconstruction Plan recently presented by President Alvaro Colom’s administration”, said Laura Frigenti, World Bank Interim Director for Central America.
The project will support two priority social services in Guatemala:
- Three levels of health care and emergency services (primary, secondary and tertiary) in the poorest 130 municipalities, through the financing of salaries of qualified health care workers.
- Basic Education services for vulnerable children, through the financing of salaries of teachers in the poorest 130 municipalities and Telesecundaria facilitators in rural and isolated areas.
This emergency operation includes a component to support the Government in the coordination, monitoring and review of the project implementation, including audits.
In further assistance to the country’s reconstruction efforts after the eruption of the Pacaya volcano in May, the passing of Tropical Storm Agatha in April and a heavy raining season, the World Bank has also proposed a restructuring of an ongoing World Bank financed project to support the Rural Economic Development Program. This restructuring is expected to release US$15 million for funding the rehabilitation of nearly 100 rural bridges.
A recently approved World Bank project, Expanding Opportunities for Vulnerable Groups, will also help to increase access to health, nutrition and education services for the extreme poor and to improve physical access to social service providers in the most vulnerable municipalities.