WASHINGTON D.C., June 23, 2015—Aiming to improve the health of women and children by supporting the Lao Government’s free maternal and child health services, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved funding of US$26.4 million from the International Development Association for the Lao PDR Health Governance and Nutrition Development Project.
This project will help increase coverage of reproductive, maternal and child health for women, and coverage of nutrition services for children in 14 of Lao PDR’s 17 provinces.
Over five years, the project is expected to benefit approximately one million women and children.
The Lao Government has introduced free care for maternal and child health which has helped to reduce financial barriers to healthcare. However, problems with the availability of quality health services remain.
In response, the project will assist the Government to develop an improved health management information system. Data from this system can be used to inform policy direction and resource allocation. This part of the project will also establish a system for civil registration and vital statistics.
While some of Lao PDR’s key health indicators have improved significantly over the past few decades, significant challenges remain. Of children under five years of age, almost half are stunted (meaning they have low height for their age). A skilled birth attendant is present at less than half of all births in Lao PDR—a critical factor in preventing maternal mortality. In rural areas of Laos, more than 60 percent of women say they do not want more children.
The project will help reduce stunting and wasting by increasing the percentage of infants who are exclusively breastfed. Nutrition is expected to be improved through the development of a national behavior change communications strategy that will target infant and young child feeding practices, among other objectives. Maternal mortality will be addressed in multiple ways, including by increasing the number of women who have access to family planning, who receive sufficient antenatal care visits, and who deliver their children with a skilled birth attendant.
“Improving women’s and children’s health and nutrition is a top priority for Lao PDR. It is critical for saving lives today and enabling today’s children to live productive lives tomorrow,” said Ulrich Zachau, Country Director of the World Bank for Southeast Asia. “The Health Governance and Nutrition Development Project targets will help achieve these goals, and the World Bank Group is honored to support this project.”
The project design draws on lessons learned from previous projects in Lao PDR and elsewhere, and also draws on analytical studies related to the health sector. The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Health, with support provided by the World Bank.