Two new projects, totaling US$52 million, will jointly address high levels of stunting in northern provinces of Lao PDR. The Reducing Rural Poverty and Malnutrition Project will lay the foundations of a national social protection system and support the delivery of a conditional cash transfer program for improved nutrition. The Scaling-Up Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Project will improve access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services.
The $27 million social protection project and the $25 million water project were signed today by Vice Minister of Finance, Mme. Thipphakone Chanthavongsa and World Bank Country Manager for Lao PDR, Nicola Pontara. Both projects will be implemented in Xieng Khouang, Houaphan, Phongsaly, and Oudomxay provinces, which suffer from stunting levels above 40 percent. Childhood stunting is associated with poor health, delayed child development, underperformance in school, and eventually reduced employment opportunities, and thus contributes to keeping communities in poverty. Current rates of maternal and child malnutrition represent a loss of human capital potential costing Lao PDR an estimated 2.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product annually.
“A child born in Lao PDR today is only 45 percent as productive as she would be if she enjoyed complete education and full health. Investing in improved nutrition means building the nation’s human capital, which will help make Lao PDR’s economic growth more inclusive in the future,” said Nicola Pontara, World Bank Country Manager for Lao PDR. “We are pleased to support two projects in sectors that are critical to reducing child malnutrition. Stunting is a multidimensional phenomenon and it is important to tackle simultaneously both demand and supply factors to help the next generation of Lao children to grow up stronger and healthier.”
The new social protection project will target poor households and provide a safety net through a cash transfer program. These transfers will be conditional upon the adoption of improved health, nutrition, and hygiene practices, and will support the well-being of children during the critical first 1000 days of life. The new water project will expand the delivery of water supply and sanitation in the same villages to tackle waterborne diseases that increase the risk of a child becoming malnourished. It will also strengthen the capacity of local authorities to monitor, evaluate, and provide technical support to communities to manage water supply and sustain good sanitation and hygiene practices.
“The Government of Lao PDR always highly values the support of the World Bank, particularly to human and rural development, which will contribute to improving the living conditions of the Lao population and poverty reduction by supporting access to improved water supply, sanitation and hygiene, as well as by providing a nutrition-sensitive social safety net to poor and vulnerable families,” said H.E. Mme. Thipphakhone Chanthavongsa, Deputy Minister of Finance of the Lao PDR.
These two new projects complement other ongoing and upcoming projects funded by the World Bank in health, education, and diversified food production, which together target the same households in the four northern provinces as part of a multi-sectoral nutrition convergence approach.