WB gives $300m to run cash handouts for poor women
The government yesterday signed a $300 million financing agreement with the World Bank Group to finance a cash handout programme for poor mothers to ensure proper nutrition for their children.
Under the programme, about 600,000 poor mothers with children below the age of five and pregnant women from 42 upazilas in the northern parts of the country will receive monthly payments through biometric-enabled Bangladesh Post Office cash cards.
In return, the women will have to go for regular visits for antenatal care services, child nutrition and development awareness sessions and monitoring of the child's weight and height, the WB said.
Ensuring adequate nutrition prenatally and in the first two years of life helps maximise a child's intelligence and brain development and enables higher level of learning through childhood and into adulthood, Johannes Zutt, WB's country director, said.
The project will help poor mothers learn how to improve the nutrition of their young children and also provide an income supplement to enable them better to act on that learning, he added.
In spite of the country's record of reducing child mortality, it is still among the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of malnutrition, the WB said.
Some 41 percent of children below the age of five are stunted, according to the World Health Organisation.
The credit, which would come from International Development Assistance, the WB's arm for the world's poorest developing countries, has a 38-year term, including a 6-year grace period. The rate of interest is 0.75 percent.
Well-designed safety nets can improve child health and nutrition outcomes, while contributing to reduction of poverty and inequality, said Mohammad Mejbahuddin, senior secretary of Economic Relations Division.
He said the project, which is a good example of involving local government bodies as well as using technological innovation to improve service delivery in Bangladesh, will break the cycle that binds poor children to poor nutrition and cognitive deficiencies.
The project will also focus on strengthening local governments' delivery of safety net programmes by setting up administrative platforms at the union parishad level to identify and enrol beneficiaries and ensure timely payments, the WB said.