ISLAMABAD: The World Bank on Saturday signed funding of $ 442.4 million for the rehabilitation of social infrastructure in thousands of remote villages in Punjab, where water and hygiene are a serious health problem, according to a statement.

Noor Ahmed, Secretary of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, signed the financing agreement for the “Punjab Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project” on behalf of the government, while Najy Benhassine, National Director of Punjab the World Bank represented his organization.

This project aims to provide equitable and sustainable access to safe drinking water, improve sanitation and reduce stunting among children in Punjab province.

Project interventions will cover 2,000 villages, including 2,000 main towns and 8,000 small towns in sixteen (16) districts of Punjab province which are the poorest and have the worst problems of social infrastructure and stunting.

In line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision to ensure equitable and inclusive socio-economic opportunities, eight (8) districts of southern Punjab, namely Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, DG Khan, Lodhran, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan and Rajanpur are included in the project. In addition, eight other districts in central and northern Punjab namely Bhakkar, Chakwal, Chiniot, Jhang, Khushab, Mianwali, Pakpattan and Sarghodha are also included after due diligence.

The project will have a direct impact on the life of ordinary man and create employment opportunities in rural areas. The government will invest in social infrastructure and improve service delivery to provide safe drinking water through profitable and sustainable investments, provide safely managed sanitation facilities to reduce the total fecal load in the village environment , and raise awareness and encourage behavior change for better hygiene practices. at household and community level to promote health and ensure the sustainability and quality of the water source.

Project interventions will directly benefit six million rural people in Punjab and help reduce the incidence of stunting among children 0-3 years old (40%) in Punjab. Economic Affairs Minister Omar Ayub Khan praised the World Bank’s efforts noting that it was a flagship project that reflected the vision of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to invest in human capital and improve the standard of living of the population.

The Minister further said today’s event reflected the continued confidence of the IFIs in government policies, economic reforms and people-centered programs.

Ayub reiterated the federal government’s commitment to provide all possible support to provincial governments in their efforts to invest in human capital by addressing the challenges of health and education; building resilience, improving service

delivery and promotion of economic opportunities to ensure inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the country.

The Secretary of EAD (Economic Affairs Division) thanked the World Bank country team for its continued support to Pakistan to help achieve sustainable economic development.

World Bank Country Director Najy Benhassine assured the World Bank’s continued financial and technical support to the government to achieve priority development goals and promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the country.

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