World Bank OKs $100M for Maternal, Child Health in Burma

By San Yamin Aung 15 October 2014

RANGOON — The World Bank on Tuesday approved a US$100 million line of credit for Burma, to go toward efforts to improve the health care services provided to mothers, infants and children in the impoverished country.

The proposed World Bank-financed project aims to increase access to essential health services, with a focus on bettering the lives of Burma’s mothers and children, the Ministry of Health stated in August.

It said the project would strengthen the ministry’s efforts to achieve universal health coverage in Burma, a country that spends less per capita on health care than any other nation in the world.

“Specifically, project funds will help cover a wide range of expenses critical to the function of health facilities, such as medical supplies, facility maintenance and repairs, patient transfers, and community engagement,” read a World Bank statement on Tuesday.

Kyaw Soe Lynn, communications officer of the World Bank in Rangoon, told The Irrawaddy that the funds represented the first time money from the global lender has gone toward health initiatives in Burma.

“It will be used under the project named Myanmar Essential Health Services Access Project, which aims to support in MOH’s universal health coverage goals,” he said, adding that the first phase of the project would be implemented over four years.

“It is expected to benefit about 4 million pregnant women and young children across all of Burma’s 330 townships,” the World Bank said in its press release.

The World Bank’s $100 million credit line is a long-term, no interest loan, with repayment deferred for the first 10 years and the value of the loan to be repaid over 40 years, according to Kyaw Soe Lynn.

Abdoulaye Seck, country manager of the World Bank in Burma, said the lender “is pleased to support a people-centered approach to development in Burma by providing more funding to frontline health facilities to deliver better health services for people across the country.”

The health initiative amounts to about 5 percent of the $2 billion that the World Bank has pledged in loans, aid and investment for Burma’s health and energy sectors. Headquartered in Washington, the World Bank returned to Burma last year after more than a quarter century in which it did not lend to the country.