YANGON—The Union Parliament has approved a government request to borrow US$100 million (152.4 billion kyats) from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) to provide monthly cash allowances for pregnant women and mothers of children under 2 years of age in two more parts of the country.
President U Win Myint sought Parliament’s approval for the loan last week. On Friday, 302 lawmakers voted in favor while 168 voted against the proposal.
Union Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr. U Win Myat Aye told Parliament on Friday that the money would be used to fund an expansion of the government’s Maternal and Child Cash Transfer (MCCT) program to Irrawaddy Region and Shan State. The government will also contribute some funds directly, the minister added.
Under the MCCT program, the ministry began providing cash assistance of 15,000 kyats per month to pregnant women and mothers of children below 2 years of age in Chin State, Rakhine State and the Naga Self-Administrative Zone in fiscal 2017-18. The program was expanded to Kayin and Kayah states in fiscal 2018-19.
Dr. U Win Myat Aye said the MCCT program is being implemented to fight malnutrition in states and regions with large numbers of children who are underweight or whose growth is stunted, based on the results of the Myanmar Demographic and Health Survey 2015-16. The survey charted the nutritional status of children across all states and regions.
According to the survey, 29 percent of children under the age of 5 in Myanmar had stunted growth, and 8 percent had severely stunted growth, indicating chronic undernourishment.
The program is aimed at helping the country reach the human resources and social development goals outlined in the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (2018-2030), the minister said.
He said that besides providing monthly cash allowances, the funds will be used—in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Sports—to educate the public on the importance of good nutrition, hygiene and family awareness to proper brain development in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.
This is the first time the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement has sought a foreign loan. The loan period is 30 years with a grace period of five years. Interest will be charged at 1.25 percent per annum during the repayment period.
Deputy Minister U Soe Aung told the lawmakers on Friday that the program would be expanded to Kachin and Mon states and to Sagaing, Mandalay, Magwe and Tanintharyi regions within the next five years.
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