VIENTIANE, LAO PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC (23 April 2018) — The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors has approved a $30 million policy-based grant to help the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) expand healthcare coverage and improve health services in the country.

The grant, which funds the second subprogram of the Health Sector Governance Program, 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. 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,” said Azusa Sato, Health Specialist at ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.

Lao PDR has made significant progress in human development in 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. Still, compared with other countries in Asia and the Pacific, Lao PDR lags behind on key health indicators. For example, at 86 deaths per 1,000 live births, Lao PDR has the highest mortality rate among children under 5 years old in Southeast Asia.

The $30 million grant will build on the successes of the project’s first subprogram 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.

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