WASHINGTON, March 27, 2017 – The Board of Directors of the World Bank (WB) approved a US$100 million loan on Friday, March 24 to improve the practices, services, and behaviors that are key to curbing chronic malnutrition in Guatemala, with emphasis being placed on the first 1,000 days of life.
The “Crecer Sano: Guatemala Nutrition and Health Project” seeks to support the National Strategy to Reduce Chronic Malnutrition 2016-2020 launched by President Jimmy Morales in March 2016. The main beneficiaries will be children under 24 months and pregnant women and their families in seven departments with large percentage of chronic malnutrition: Alta Verapaz, Chiquimula, Huehuetenango, Quiché, San Marcos, Sololá, and Totonicapán. Almost all of these departments have a predominantly indigenous population.
The approved project will be financed by the WB and the Global Financing Facility in Support of Every Woman Every Child (GFF), a new multi-donor trust fund financing facility for reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH), which was created to support the financing of the Global Strategy in Support of Every Woman Every Child and is supported by a broad set of development partners including the governments of Norway, Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The GFF helps finance national RMNCAH scale-up plans while at the same time focusing on results. It supports countries in the transition toward sustainable domestic financing of RMNCAH; as well as contributes to a better-coordinated and streamlined RMNCAH financing architecture.
“This loan is of paramount importance to Guatemala. By reducing malnutrition we will increase the productivity of our future work force. We are also thankful for the grant from the GFF which will allow us to benefit from better loan terms and thereby channel more resources to vulnerable populations in Guatemala,” said Julio Héctor Estrada, Guatemala’s Minister of Finance.
Support with the delivery of nutrition and health services to mothers and children, which covers prenatal care among other things, and improved access to safe drinking water and sanitation are some of the activities provided for under the project. The project also seeks to promote interventions aimed at changing behaviors such as ensuring that mothers breastfeed exclusively during the first six months of life.
Guatemala is the first country to benefit from a US$9 million performance-based WB loan buy-down from the GFF Trust Fund. Grant funds from the GFF are linked to key results and enable Guatemala to receive more concessional terms than standard WB loan terms. The government has committed to use the resources that are freed up from debt payments, match these with additional domestic resources and reinvest the combined amount of US$18 million in a conditional cash transfer program that aims to improve the health and nutrition status of families by providing transfers. “Through this innovative financing instrument, we are proud to support Guatemala to expand resources that benefit mothers and children” says Dr. Mariam Claeson, Director of the GFF.
While the malnutrition rate in Guatemala has fallen from 55 percent in 1995 to 46.5 percent in 2014/2015, it remains the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean and one of the highest in the world, exceeding rates in countries with much lower per capita incomes, such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Vietnam. Rates of malnutrition are particularly high among indigenous populations (61%). These high malnutrition rates affect the quality of human development in Guatemala and, thus, its development and growth potential.
“When we look at the country, we see two Guatemalas: rural and urban areas, formal and informal sectors, and those who have access to basic services and those who don’t. This project and all our work aim to help close the gap between the two Guatemalas and ensure that vulnerable populations have access to a better future,” noted Homa-Zahra Fotouhi, World Bank Country Manager for Guatemala.
This loan has a final maturity of 33 years including a grace period of six years.
To learn more about the World Bank’s work in Latin America and the Caribbean, please visit: https://www.worldbank.org/en/region/lac
Learn more about the World Bank in Guatemala: https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/guatemala
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