The Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Board of Directors has approved a US$30 million policy-based grant to help the Lao government expand healthcare coverage and improve health services in the country, the bank said on its website on Monday.
The grant, which funds the second sub-programme of the Health Sector Governance Programme, is in line with the government’s Health Sector Reform Strategy, which aims to achieve universal health coverage by 2025.
“Lao PDR is embarking on a very exciting journey to reach universal health coverage, assuring people’s access to healthcare with affordable and more predictable costs,” Health Specialist at ADB’s Southeast Asia Department, Azusa Sato was quoted as saying.
“It is doing this through the introduction of national health insurance, which will cover the entire country by the end of 2018.
ADB has been fortunate to be engaged before and during this exciting transition, and looks forward to tackling other health system challenges, including the provision of quality healthcare, with the Government of the Lao PDR.”
ADB said Laos has made significant progress in human development over the last two decades. Life expectancy reached 68 in 2015, up from 54 in 1990.
Maternal mortality rates dramatically dropped to 206 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015 from 905 deaths in 1995. The Lao government has set a target to reduce the maternal mortality rate to 175 per 100,000 live births by 2018, according to the government’s report.
However, compared with other countries in Asia and the Pacific, Laos lags behind on key health indicators. For example, at 86 deaths per 1,000 live births, Laos has the highest mortality rate among children under 5 years old in Southeast Asia, according to the bank.
The US$30 million grant will build on the successes of the project’s first sub-programme and focus on four critical areas of health reform, including assisting the reform process; enhancing the implementation of free healthcare for the poor, especially women and children; improving health human resource management; and improving the health sector’s financial management system.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region.
By Times Reporters
(Latest Update April 25, 2018