ADB approves $603m to support social protection programmes

ISLAMABAD - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $603 million results-based lending programme to strengthen and expand social protection programmes in Pakistan.
Using conditional cash transfers, the program will support the implementation of Ehsaas, Pakistan’s national social protection and poverty reduction strategy. Under the Integrated Social Protection Development Program, ADB will provide a regular loan of $600 million and a $3 million grant from the Asian Development Fund, and will administer a $24 million grant from the Education Above All Foundation.
Pakistan had sought $600 million from the ADB to realise its vision of social protection and poverty reduction through the Ehsaas programme. The plan aims at enhanced social protection and access to education, health services and nutrition requirements for poor households. The impact of ‘Integrated Social Protection Development Programme’ (ISPDP) will be alleviation of poverty, reduced inequality and inclusive and sustainable human capital development, according to the project document. 
According to the officials, the approved loan proceeds would also be used to provide cash assistance to the Kalash people, who had been almost excluded from the BISP coverage. Currently, only 3-4 percent of Kalash people are the BISP recipients, according to the ADB report. 
“The program marks a significant shift in ADB’s strategic engagement in the social protection space in Pakistan in line with Ehsaas priorities,” said ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Yevgeniy Zhukov. “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.” The program 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 programs at primary education level for overaged out-of-school children under conditional cash transfers. In addition, the program supports improvements in implementation and fiduciary capacity for Pakistan’s social protection programs. This will build on previous ADB support to further improve grievance redress, risk management, financial management, procurement, monitoring and evaluation, and management information systems—functions which help to strengthen internal controls.
Pakistan is prone to the impacts of climate change and natural hazards, including floods, heat waves, and droughts which have a disproportionate impact on the poor and vulnerable. By leveraging Asian Development Fund resources for climate adaptation, the program will help identify and integrate appropriate climate resilience measures, such as vulnerability mapping and early warning systems. “ADB is a trusted and longstanding partner. This program is the result of years of engagement with ADB 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 Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr. Sania Nishtar. 
“This program incentivizes parents to send their children to schools, particularly girls, and will help to provide specialized nutritious food and conditional cash transfers to children and mothers in the districts of Pakistan that most need it,” she added.

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