VIENTIANE, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors approved on Monday 22.5 million U.S. dollars in additional funding for the Poverty Reduction Fund to Laos, local daily Lao News Agency (KPL) reported on Wednesday.
The additional funding will support agriculture-related activities under Lao National Nutrition Strategy with a focus on improving livelihoods and nutrition through productive or agricultural infrastructure, and broadening access to seed grants for self-help groups.
It will also contribute to a recent government multi-sectoral nutrition initiative to reduce child stunting in some of the poorest districts in the country. This initiative, already supported by the World Bank, focuses in northern Lao provinces of Oudomxay, Houaphan, Phongsaly and Xieng Khouang, where rates of child stunting are especially high.
The initiative will help agricultural communities improve livestock and crop production with a focus on diverse and nutritious foods, said the report.
"Since 2002, the Poverty Reduction Fund has helped improve the lives of more than 1.2 million people living in nearly 3,000 of the poorest villages in the country with improved village roads, sanitation, irrigation, schools and health facilities," said Nicola Pontara, World Bank country manager for Laos.
"This additional funding will help increase the diversity of food groups that young children and pregnant mothers consume by enabling them to produce their own nutritious food while increasing incomes," he added.
Lao National Nutrition Strategy and Plan of Action (NNSPA) aims to accelerate the reduction of stunting among children under five years old from 44 percent in 2012 to 25 percent by 2025, through activities such as strengthening social safety nets and setting up a conditional cash transfer program to target beneficiaries, according to the report.
Even though poverty has significantly declined in the country over the previous decade, the disparity between regions and among socio-economic and ethnic groups are still high. As of 2016, about 19 percent of Lao citizens were undernourished and 33 percent of children under five were stunted.