Fresh loans from World Bank worth $1.84B await Bongbong Marcos
MANILA, Philippines — The World Bank has green-lit its last loan for the Philippines under outgoing President Duterte’s watch, the $178.1-million financing to address prevalent stunting among Filipino children.
With the June 22 approval of this loan for the multisectoral nutrition project, the World Bank’s near-term lending pipeline for the Philippines still had 11 projects worth a combined $1.84 billion in low-interest, concessional loans up for consideration of the lender’s Washington-based board of executive directors during the incoming administration of president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
To be jointly implemented by the departments of Health (DOH) and of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Philippines’ multisectoral nutrition project “will support the delivery of nutrition and health care services at the primary care and community levels to help reduce stunting — characterized by prolonged nutritional deficiency among infants and young children — in 235 municipalities known to have high incidence of poverty and malnutrition,” the World Bank said in a statement on Thursday. Stunted kids were smaller in height compared to healthier children of the same age.
Specifically, the World Bank said this newest loan will fund “a package of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions across the various local government unit (LGU) platforms together with a social behavior change and communications interventions.”
“Households with pregnant women and children under two years will benefit from high-impact nutrition interventions including infant and young feeding, regular growth monitoring, multiple micronutrient supplements for children six to 23 months, iron-folic acid supplementation for pregnant women, vitamin A supplementation for children, dietary supplementation for nutritionally-at-risk pregnant women, and treatment of moderate and severe acute malnutrition,” the World Bank said.
“The project will also support behavioral change campaigns for targeted households and communities to adopt behaviors crucial to improving nutrition outcomes for women and children, including hand washing with soap at critical times; improved sanitation and access to safe drinking water; early child-care and development; nutrition-focused child-care development activities; and promoting access to ‘pantawid pamilyang Pilipino program’ or 4Ps, one of the country’s social protection programs,” the World Bank added.
The World Bank said this financing was timely amid the prolonged Russian invasion of Ukraine, which would “likely exacerbate the food and nutrition security of vulnerable Filipino households.”
“Globally, food prices, already on the rise since the second half of 2020, have reached an all-time high in February 2022, leading to food security problems around the world. These events indicate that unless immediate action is taken, millions of Filipino children will face the increased risk of undernutrition and likely suffer the consequences of poor school performance and low adult productivity,” the World Bank said.
“The persistence of high levels of childhood undernutrition in the Philippines, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, could lead to a significant increase in inequality of opportunities in the country. Where healthy children can do well in school and look forward to a prosperous future, stunted children tend to be sickly, learn less, more likely to drop out of school and their economic productivity as adults can be clipped by more than 10 percent in their lifetime. Hence, improving the nutritional status of children is key to the country’s goals of boosting human capital while strengthening the country’s economic recovery and prospects for long-term growth,” World Bank country director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand Ndiamé Diop said.
World Bank senior nutrition specialist for East Asia and Pacific region Nkosinathi Mbuya noted that a child’s first 1,000 days of life were “a critical period” during children’s development.
“Undernutrition and exposure to risks and adversities during the first 1,000 days of the child’s life can disrupt cognitive, emotional, and physical development and hold children back from reaching their full potential, thus affecting the formation of the country’s human capital. Therefore, interventions to improve nutritional outcomes must focus on this age group and women of child-bearing age,” Mbuya said.
In a report last year, the World Bank said the Philippines was suffering from a “silent pandemic” — childhood stunting as a result of undernutrition.
World Bank estimates had shown that in 2019, 29 percent of Filipino kids who were aged five and below were stunted. In the East Asia and Pacific region, the Philippines had the fifth-highest stunting prevalence; worldwide, the country was among the top 10.
The World Bank had mainly blamed stunting on micronutrient undernutrition affecting infants, children and pregnant women. The COVID-19 pandemic likely aggravated stunting and undernutrition in the Philippines, the World Bank had said.
Meanwhile, documents last month showed the World Bank will lend the Philippines in December of this year $200 million for the second financial sector reform development policy financing aimed at “achieving a resilient, inclusive and sustainable financial sector.”
“The financial system, while smaller than the financial systems of Asian peers, has broadly withstood the impact of COVID-19, but it faces downside risks due to high interconnectedness with non-financial corporates and volatile external conditions,” the World Bank said.
In particular, the World Bank said this loan would help the Philippine government strengthen prudential supervision of banks and conglomerates; align its insurance framework with international standards; strengthen the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) capacity to undertake timely preventive and prompt corrective actions to ensure risks arising in banks are detected and addressed at an early stage; and broaden the issuer and investor base for the corporate debt securities market.
The forthcoming financial-sector reforms to be supported by World Bank financing would also expand digital and innovative financial services through digital banks; establish the Philippines’ catastrophe risk insurance facility; as well as help the country’s biggest or so-called domestic systemically important banks assess the impact of climate change on their portfolios and adopt “green finance taxonomy” to facilitate private-sector investments in green assets, the lender said.
The World Bank’s other upcoming loans for the Philippines, for approval during the Marcos Jr. administration, included the $400-million sustainable recovery development policy loan; $245-million Mindanao transport connectivity improvement project; $200-million fisheries and coastal resiliency project; $150-million sustainable inclusive and resilient tourism project; as well as $140-million Agus-Pulangi hydropower complex rehabilitation project 1, and $90-million project 2.
The World Bank will also lend the Philippines $110 million for its teacher effectiveness and competencies enhancement project; $100 million for the alternative learning system project; another $100 million for the digital transformation project; and also $100 million for the Mindanao inclusive agriculture development project.
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