The World Bank has approved a $100 million loan to finance reforms in the health sector in the Punjab.
The reform programme is aimed at increasing the number of people who have access to quality basic healthcare, particularly in the low performing districts, said the WB’s country office on Monday.
Islamabad will return the concessionary loan in 25 years with a maturity period of five years.
The project’s target areas are improving health service delivery, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of the health system, strengthening provincial department of health management capacity and improving the capacities in technical areas for equitable health services.
The project results will measure improvements in sub sectors like fully immunised children between 12 and 23 months; the use of skilled birth attendants; and the use of modern birth-spacing methods, in low performing districts.
In addition to these indicators, a set of intermediate outcome indicators will be used to track improvements in service delivery, performance, governance and accountability, said the WB. The World Bank has made some of the disbursements conditional on progress in the targetted areas.
Punjab’s overall health outcomes are comparable to the national average or slightly better than other provinces, but the pace of change remains slow and uneven with significant disparities among regions, rural and urban areas, and by economic status.
The average duration of exclusive breastfeeding is less than a month, as compared to the national average of 3.2 months. Further, immunisation coverage also remains low; only one in three children aged 12-23 months are fully immunised (34.6%).
“Punjab has gradually improved maternal and child health outcomes and the key to further improvement is addressing the huge burden of malnutrition among women and children, which have not improved in the past two decades. Stunting occurs among 39% children under five,” said Dr Inamul Haq, task team leader of the project. The project will aim to improve the capacity of health service providers to deliver nutrition interventions at the facility and community level.
“Punjab holds the key to Pakistan’s progress towards attaining the millennium development goals (MDGs) [since it is home to] 60 per cent of [the country’s] population”, said Rachid Benmessaoud, the WB’s country director for Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2013.