WB okays $1.1b loan

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The World Bank has approved approximately $1.1 billion for three projects to improve quality of primary education, build multipurpose shelters and promote child nutrition in Bangladesh. The projects will benefit about 3.6 crore people by improving the standard of primary education, building coastal communities’ resilience to natural disasters, and increasing the nutrition and cognitive development of poor children, the Washington-based lender said in a statement yesterday. The projects are $300 million for the Income Support Programme for the Poorest (ISPP), $400 million in additional financing for the Third Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP3) and $375 million for the Multipurpose Disaster Shelter Project (MDSP). “These three projects weave a strong story of complementarity in the World Bank’s efforts to create opportunities for the poor — by using cash transfers for mothers to promote better nutrition at home, helping children take advantage of pre-primary education under the primary education programme and providing school infrastructure in vulnerable coastal zones,” said Johannes Zutt, World Bank country director for Bangladesh. “Directly and indirectly, these operations help ensure that even the poorest children in Bangladesh can achieve their full potential,” Zutt added. The ISPP will benefit 10 percent of the extremely poor population, or 27 lakh people in 42 of the poorest upazilas in the country, the WB statement says. The project will provide income support to about 6 lakh poorest mothers in exchange for participating in activities aimed at improving their children’s nutrition and cognitive development, it adds. Monthly cash transfers will be electronically disbursed into these mothers’ post office accounts using smart cash cards to help minimise scope for errors in the transfer process. “Ensuring adequate nutrition prenatally and in the first two years of life helps to maximise a child’s brain development and health,” said Iffath Sharif, WB task team leader, ISPP. “Helping a child’s growth and cognitive development in the initial five years is critical to boost the earnings capacity in the later years of life and to prevent the transmission of poverty across generations,” Iffath Sharif added. The project will also focus on strengthening local governments’ delivery of safety net programmes. The additional financing for the ongoing PEDP3 would continue to improve the primary education sector by increasing net enrolment to 98 percent and the primary completion rate to 80 percent, the global lender believes. The project would also continue efforts to ensure merit-based teacher recruitment and fill in vacant school positions. Moreover, it will ensure textbook delivery to 90 percent of the schools within the first month of the school year. “The additional financing for the Government-led programme will contribute to bring 19 million Bangladeshi primary school age children to school, provide them quality learning, and ensure they complete the primary school cycle,” said Ayesha Vawda, WB task team leader for the PEDP3. In addition, the programme would continue the introduction of pre-primary education, especially in disadvantaged areas, and enhance quality of the school facilities and infrastructure. The MDSP aims to make the coastal population less vulnerable to natural disasters. The project will construct 552 new multipurpose disaster shelters, improve 450 existing ones, and build connecting roads and communication networks for easy accessibility in nine coastal districts.

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