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World Bank Approves US$75 Million in Loans for Panama

World Bank Approves US$75 Million in Loans for Panama

Washington D.C - The World Bank Board of Directors approved two loans totaling US$75 million for Panama to increase access to and quality of basic health services and education among the poor in rural and indigenous areas. "The central objective of the government's program is to tackle poverty and inequality by improving access to health and education programs for poor and underserved groups. This is a very wise investment and the World Bank is pleased to support it," said Laura Frigenti, World Bank Director for Central America. (more)

Recent growth, averaging over 7.5 percent annually during 2004-07, and increased social spending has helped Panama improve social indicators such as infant and child survival and education enrollment rates at all levels, however, access to health and education remains a challenge among poor and indigenous groups. Rural and indigenous communities are the most affected by resilient poverty and inequality. Poverty affects close to 60 percent of the population in rural areas and virtually all people living in indigenous areas, where the poverty rate reaches 98 percent. Nearly 10 percent of Panama's 3.5 million people belong to indigenous groups.

The US$40 million Health Equity and Performance Improvement Project seeks to increase access of underserved rural communities to quality basic health services and improve health system performance by supporting the following components:

1. Increasing access to primary health care services by the poor in rural areas in order to improve mother and child health care. This component uses a results-based approach to ensure access by the poor in underserved rural communities to basic health and preventive services. The package of services to be delivered by networks of public health providers includes children's vaccinations, prevention and treatment of the most frequent children's infectious diseases, prenatal and post-partum controls for mothers, interventions to prevent malnutrition among pregnant women and children under five, and education and health promotion activities.

2. Increasing the capacity of primary health care networks to respond to health care service demand by poor and indigenous rural communities. This component will finance activities to increase the capacity of primary health care networks to better respond to needs of the poor in rural areas. The activities are geared toward increasing the capacity of decentralized health regions to improve quality, continuity and coverage of the poor in rural areas.

3. Strengthening the Ministry of Health's institutional capacity to exercise stewardship over the health sector. This component would support the strengthening the Ministry's capacity for strategic planning, management of information and monitoring results to improve health system performance with an emphasis on fostering health policies for equitable access to health services.

This US$40 million fixed-spread loan is repayable in 20 years and includes a 4.5-year grace period.

Education Quality Improvement Project

The second project approved today for US$35 million is the Education Quality Improvement Project, which seeks to improve the coverage and quality of initial, basic (grades 1-9) and secondary (grades 10-12) education programs in rural and urban marginalized areas.

The project will support the following activities:

1. Improving education quality in basic (grades 1-9) and secondary (grades 10-12) education programs. This component includes the establishment of a focalized national training program for teachers and school administrators in low performing schools, the development of initial and basic education curricula to respond to the cultural specificities of the Ngabe, Bugle, Embera, Wounaan and Naso indigenous groups, and the promotion of Information Technology literacy among students in secondary education, among others.

2. Increasing enrollment levels and successful completion in initial and basic educational programs. This activity includes expanding access to non-formal initial education programs in rural and indigenous areas through Family Centers for Initial Education (CEFACEI) and home-based initial education (EIH) programs; increasing the number of Telebásica distance education centers in rural areas; applying the pedagogical model of Accelerated Primary Education (Educación Primaria Acelerada) to schools in rural and indigenous areas with high proportions of overage students; and establishing a focalized tutors program for students at risk of academic failure.

3. Strengthening the institutional capacity and performance of the Ministry of Education. To this end, this component will advance various capacity building activities, in particular, it will create an integrated Information Management System, and increase the technical capacity of the Ministry to produce timely, user-friendly, policy-relevant education statistics.

The US$35 million fixed-spread loan is repayable in 20 years and includes a five-year grace period.


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