Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Myanmar gets US$ 22-million ADB grant from Japan for rural livelihoods, HIV prevention

YANGON—The Myanmar government and the Asian Development Bank have signed two grant agreements worth US$ 22 million (Ks 2.17 billion), financed by the Japan government, to help reduce rural poverty and expand HIV/AIDS services to vulnerable groups and into remote areas.

The programmes will be provided through the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR), the bank said. According to the ADB, the $12 million livelihoods grant will benefit at least 700,000 people in villages in the Ayeyarwady Delta, the central dry zone, Tanintharyi Region, and Shan State, where some rural communities face poverty rates more than double the urban level.

The US$ 10-million HIV/AIDS JFPR grant will increase access and quality to health and HIV/AIDS services, along fast developing economic corridors in Mon, Kayin, and Shan states, where new opportunities are attracting migrant workers and mobile populations. In these underserved areas, these mobile populations as well as local communities are at increased risk of communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

“The livelihoods grant will help communities develop viable new income opportunities needed to end the vicious cycle of rural poverty,” said Putu Kamayana, the bank’s Myanmar Country head, adding that the HIV/AIDS assistance will strengthen treatment and prevention of the disease, in collaboration with non-governmental organisations.

Deputy Minister for Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development Tin Ngwe said that grants under the project “will help to identify and prioritise community specific needs, which can then be financed through community block funds to enable rural people to benefit from political and economic reforms.”

The project aims to improve village infrastructure such as roads, jetties, water and irrigation facilities, schools and community health centres. It also aims to create more job opportunities in areas such as fish, shrimp and pearl farming, livestock husbandry, and production of cash crops, including garlic and chilies. The project also provides English language training courses which can help communities to take advantage of the country’s fast-growing tourism market.

The JFPR project will support government and NGO joint efforts to develop and deliver better health services for underserved populations. The project will also enhance the government’s capacity to manage public services delivery while designing new models for reaching out to people at risk, according to the ADB.

“This funding will build 47 rural health centres and sub-health centres, refurbish three township hospitals, supply medical equipment and training, and lead to better access to basic health services for some of the country’s most vulnerable people,” said Kazuhiko Koguchi, ADB’s executive director for Japan.

Besides these two grants, the ADB Board will approve the third project soon—probably at the end of this month, Koguchi said.

“We have a power distribution project, which is just starting to be implemented, and we have two JFTR-finance projects that have just been signed. We expect the third one to start soon. At the same time, we have about 26 technical assistance projects which are financed by technical assistance grants totaling about US$ 20 million, which have been ongoing since 2012 in different areas,” said Koguchi.

ADB has been involved with a number of infrastructure projects in the country such as road transport, power, irrigation, and urban services since the resumption of its operations in the Southeast Asian country last year. The bank is very satisfied with the progress of its projects and the government’s cooperation in the implementation of the community-driven projects, Koguchi told Myanmar Eleven in an interview.

“At the moment, we just need to start from almost zero, and gradually we aim to speed up. We are still at the (earliest) stage. Therefore, we are starting by providing assistance for the infrastructure projects like power distribution programmes,” he said.

Koguchi also mentioned that many NGOs are helping ADB implement HIV/AIDS programmes, reaffirming that ADB will continue working with local NGOs and other stakeholders to serve the needs of the people.

Putu Kamayana, head of ADB’s extended mission in Myanmar, echoed Koguchi’s commitment.

“It’s very important to deal with all national stakeholders in determining how we can help the country address its priorities for economic growth and poverty reduction. ADB’s preparing a plan for how to engage most effectively with civil society organisations and with local communities in delivering the entire programme in Myanmar,” said Kamayana.

The development lender’s Myanmar head confirmed that ADB is consulting with local and international civil society organisations, private sector representatives, development partners, and other key stakeholders to see how best ADB can take into account the views of local communities in preparing and implementing its projects.

Health Minister Pe Thet Khin said that ADB’s project could help achieve the government’s goal of improving health services for all people, both structurally and functionally. An estimated 200,000 people in Myanmar are thought to be living with HIV, according to ADB.

Since its establishment in 2000, the JFPR has provided more than US$ 620 million (Ks 612.5 billion) for 308 grants and technical assistance projects in ADB’s developing member countries. Established in 1966, ADB, which has 67 members, aims to reduce poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth and regional integration.

source: Eleven Myanmar
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