WASHINGTON, December 2, 2019 – The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved $22.5 million in additional funding for the Poverty Reduction Fund, one of the Lao PDR Government’s main vehicles to address rural poverty.
The additional funding will support agriculture-related activities under the government’s National Nutrition Strategy with a focus on productive or agricultural infrastructure to improve livelihoods and nutrition, and broadening access to seed grants for self-help groups.
The additional funding will also contribute to a recent government multi-sectoral nutrition initiative to reduce child stunting in some of the poorest districts in the country. This initiative, already supported by the World Bank, is focused in Oudomxay, Houaphan, Phongsaly and Xiengkhouang provinces, where rates of child stunting are especially high. The initiative will help agricultural communities improve livestock and crop production, with a focus on diverse and nutritious foods.
“Since 2002, the Poverty Reduction Fund has helped improve the lives of more than 1.2 million people living in nearly 3,000 of the poorest villages in the country with improved village roads, sanitation, irrigation, schools and health facilities,” said Nicola Pontara, World Bank Country Manager for Lao PDR. “This additional funding will help increase the diversity of food groups that young children and pregnant mothers consume by enabling them to produce their own nutritious food while increasing incomes.”
The Government’s National Nutrition Strategy and Plan of Action (NNSPA) aims to accelerate the reduction of stunting among children under 5 years old from 44 percent in 2012 to 25 percent by 2025, through activities such as strengthening social safety nets and setting up a conditional cash transfer program to target beneficiaries.
Even though poverty has significantly declined in the country over the previous decade, the disparity between regions and among socio-economic and ethnic groups are still high. As of 2016, about 19 percent of Lao citizens were undernourished and 33 percent of children under 5 years of age were stunted. In the poorest communities, stunting rates in children are more than three times higher than children in richest communities.
The new World Bank financing comes from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest. Evidence has shown that stunted children are more susceptible to chronic diseases in adulthood, have attain less years of schooling and reduced adult income. This initiative targets child nutrition as part of the World Bank’s Human Capital Project that aims to increase investments in human potential for greater equity and economic growth.