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Lao PDR aims to achieve universal health coverage with new Global Fund, Government of Australia and World Bank investment

18 November 2020

Vientiane – The first co-financing investment under a new agreement between the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria, and the World Bank, will support the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s goal of achieving universal health coverage by 2025.

Beginning in January 2021, the $US36 million joint-investment by the Global Fund, the World Bank and the Government of Australia will increase access to quality health care and strengthen health systems across Lao PDR. Implemented by the Ministry of Health and civil society organizations, the funds will be used to help women and children, people living in hard-to-reach areas, and vulnerable and key populations access essential health and nutrition services, including HIV and TB programs, through a project entitled the Health and Nutrition Services Access Project (HANSA).

The project will strengthen the Lao health system and improve the quality and coverage of health and nutrition services by providing funds to health centers and departments using results-based instruments. It will help tackle childhood stunting through a Multisectoral Nutrition Convergence Approach, by increasing access to and use of nutrition interventions in targeted provinces.

“Innovative financing and partnerships between government, development agencies and civil society organizations can significantly increase the impact of investments in health systems and accelerate progress in the fight against infectious diseases. Collaborations like this one are more vital than ever as health systems around the world face unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mark Eldon-Edington, Global Fund’s Head of Grant Management.

“This project will help the government address the persistent problem of access to poor quality of health and nutrition services,” said Mariam Sherman, World Bank Country Director for Lao PDR. “These issues are most felt by women and the poor, and the difficulty of accessing and paying for health services contributes to inequity in health and nutrition.”

The Government of Australia, a long-standing donor to the Global Fund which already co-finances World Bank’s investments in health in Lao PDR, welcomed the new joint-investment. “Australia is delighted at the opportunity this brings to support the government's health sector objectives in a harmonized way across multiple agencies, and looks forward to the benefits that this will bring to progressing toward Universal Health Coverage in Lao PDR,” said Dr Stephanie Williams, Australia's Ambassador for Regional Health Security.

Other global health partners including the Clinton Health Access Initiative, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization will support the program with technical assistance on supply chain and financial management activities, as well as support to the national tuberculosis (TB) and HIV programs. This broad partnership for improved health in Lao PDR shows the commitment to reaching UN Sustainable Development Goal 3, for healthy lives and well-being for all, under the Global Action Plan.

Lao PDR has made significant improvements in health and nutrition services in recent years, but rates of maternal mortality and chronic undernutrition among children are some of the highest in the region. The country has a high TB disease burden and faces a concentrated HIV epidemic. National HIV and TB programs have made important progress over the last years with high treatment success rates, but health professionals continue to face challenges in identifying cases.

The $US36 million investment includes a $23 million contribution from the World Bank, $10 million from the Global Fund, and $3 million from the Government of Australia.

The World Bank provides financing, global knowledge, and long-term commitment to help low- and middle-income countries end poverty, achieve sustainable growth, and invest in opportunity for all. We comprise the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the world’s largest development bank, and the International Development Association (IDA), one of the largest sources of funding for the world’s poorest countries. With the other World Bank Group institutions as well as partners across the public and private sectors, we are helping build solutions to the global challenges of the 21st century in all major sectors of development. A world where no one lives in poverty and everyone has the opportunity for a better life is within our reach.

The Australian Government’s development program focuses on health security, stability and economic recovery and protecting the most vulnerable, especially women and girls. COVID-19 has reinforced that Australia's stability and prosperity is closely tied to that of the Indo-Pacific, so ongoing efforts will focus on Australia’s nearest neighbours, whilst also continuing to cooperate globally to manage the impacts of the pandemic and chart a course to a shared recovery.