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World Bank grants $442.4m to uplift social infrastructure in Punjab

The World Bank has approved US$ 442.4 million to Pakistan for the elevation of social infrastructure in the rural areas of Punjab, including the Rural Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Project.

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According to a press release issued by Ministry of Economic Affairs (EAD), The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Government of Pakistan and the World Bank signed the financing agreement of “Punjab Rural Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Project”.

The ‘Punjab Rural Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Project’ will help upgrade water supply and sanitation infrastructure and services that ensure equitable and sustainable access to drinking water and safe wastewater management. The project prioritizes rural settlements where water contamination and poor sanitation practices are more prevalent, causing high levels of illness and child stunting, read the statement released by the World Bank.

The financing agreement was signed by Secretary Economic Affairs Noor Ahmed on behalf of the Government of Pakistan while Country Director, World Bank Najy Benhassine, signed the agreement on behalf of the World Bank.

It will cover 16 districts, with 50 per cent of districts drawn from south Punjab, and 25pc each from central and north Punjab, benefiting 2,000 villages and more than six million people in rural areas. It will also provide training of village councils and community caretakers, which will have complementary responsibilities for operations and maintenance, monitoring and evaluation and customer service.

The project design was informed by a 2018 flagship report, When Water Becomes a Hazard: A Diagnostic Report on The State of Water Supply, Sanitation and Poverty in Pakistan and Its Impact on Child Stunting, that examined linkages in Pakistan between water and sanitation services, and child stunting. This study also supported environmental sustainability and the need to provide information and support behavioral change in poor rural communities to reduce health risks.

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Eight districts from South Punjab; Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, DG Khan, Lodhran, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan and Rajanpur have been included in the project in line with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure equitable and inclusive socioeconomic opportunities.

Moreover, eight other districts from Central and North Punjab i.e., Bhakkar, Chakwal, Chiniot, Jhang, Khushab, Mianwali, Pakpattan and Sarghodha were included after due diligence.

The government will invest in social infrastructure and improve service delivery to provide potable water through cost-effective and sustainable investments; offer safely managed sanitation facilities to reduce the total fecal burden in the village environment; and raise awareness and promote behaviour change for better hygiene practices at the household and community levels to promote health and ensure the sustainability and quality of the water source.

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The project interventions will directly benefit six million rural people of Punjab and will support in reducing the incidence of stunting among children aged 0-3 years (40%) in Punjab.

Appreciating the World Bank’s efforts, Minister for Economic Affairs Omar Ayub Khan said that this was a signature project which reflects the vision of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to invest in human capital and to uplift the standard of living of the people. The event of today was a reflection of the continued confidence by the IFIs on the government’s policies, economic reforms and people-centered programmes, he added.

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He reiterated the commitment of the federal government to extend all possible support to the provincial governments in their efforts to invest in human capital by addressing challenges to health and education; building resilience, improving service delivery and promoting economic opportunities to ensure inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the country.

The Secretary EAD said that he was grateful to World Bank’s country team for offering continuous support to the government of Pakistan to help achieve sustainable economic development.

Country Director World Bank, Najy Benhassine guaranteed the World Bank’s continued financial and technical support to Pakistan in achieving the priority development objectives and to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the country.

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