ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday approved a $603 million loan to support Ehsaas social protection programme.

According to an ADB statement, the loan would finance results-based programme to strengthen and expand social protection network. Using conditional cash transfers, the programme will support the implementation of Ehsaas, Pakistan’s national social protection and poverty reduction strategy.

Under the Integrated Social Protection Development Programme, the ADB will provide a regular loan of $600m and a $3m grant from the Asian Development Fund, and will administer a $24m grant from the Education Above All Foundation.

“The programme marks a significant shift in ADB’s strategic engagement in the social protection space in Pakistan in line with Ehsaas priorities,” said Yevgeniy Zhukov, ADB Director General for Central and West Asia.

“The ADB’s support will transition from unconditional cash transfers that provide income support to a mixed-modality approach that focuses more on conditional cash transfers for education, health services and nutritional supplies that will help reduce intergenerational poverty through human capital development,” he added.

The programme supports the Ehsaas goal of expanding cash transfers to improve access to primary and secondary education up to grade 10 for children and adolescents of poor families, especially girls, and enhancing health services and nutrition for women, adolescent girls and poor children.

It also aims to initiate coverage of accelerated learning programmes at the primary education level for overage out-of-school children under conditional cash transfers.

In addition, the programme supports improvements in implementation and fiduciary capacity for Pakistan’s social protection programmes.

“ADB is a trusted and longstanding partner. This programme is the result of years of engagement with the Asian Bank and other partners and focuses on areas where we believe the bank can have most impact. It is a key priority under the government’s Ehsaas strategy,” said Dr Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2021

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