Lao PDR: New Financing to Improve Access to Health and Nutrition Services

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved US$23 million for Lao PDR under the Health and Nutrition Services Access Project (HANSA). The project aims to strengthen the country’s health system and improve the quality and coverage of service by providing funds to health centers and departments, with support benchmarked against performance. The project enhances the sustainability of public health programs, including maternal and child health, immunization, tuberculosis (TB) and HIV prevention, with a special focus on reducing malnutrition in the north of the country.

Among the performance indicators of HANSA are the availability of essential drugs and supplies and placement of clinical staff at health centers, as well as the number of mothers and children receiving quality care services in public health facilities.

Lao PDR’s maternal and child mortality rates and chronic malnutrition levels remain among the highest in the East Asia and Pacific region. Through this project, the World Bank and its partners will work together to improve primary care for women and children, which will in turn help raise living standards and break the cycle of poverty,” said Nicola Pontara, World Bank Country Manager for Lao PDR.

About 33 percent of children under five years in Lao PDR are stunted. This persistence of high levels of childhood undernutrition presents a loss of human and economic potential for the country. The project supports the multisectoral nutrition ‘convergence’ approach, launched in November 2019 by the Government of Lao PDR to reduce the prevalence of childhood undernutrition in four northern provinces – Oudomxay, Phongsaly, Huaphan and Xiengkhuang. The new project will also improve detection and treatment for TB as well as increase coverage of HIV testing of key populations and vulnerable groups through a more integrated service delivery.

“This financing will not only contribute to Lao PDR’s investments in human capital but will help to save lives, by making treatment and basic healthcare available to some of the most vulnerable communities in the country,” said Somil Nagpal, Senior Health Specialist and Team Leader for this project.

The US$23 million in financing comes from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). This is expected to be complemented, subject to approvals,  with co-financing and grants of US$10 million and US$3 million, respectively, from the Global Fund and the Integrating Donor‐Financed Health Programs (IDFHP) Multi-Donor Trust Fund to Advance Universal Health Coverage.  The Government of Australia is the largest donor to the IDFHP with other partners being the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The World Bank’s IDA, established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives.