MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Government of Japan are to help Nepal overhaul its social protection programs, with a key goal of reducing the country's stubbornly high levels of child malnutrition.
The Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, administered by ADB, is extending a $2 million grant for a project designed to improve the planning and execution of programs to make them more inclusive and equitable. A central element will be fine tuning the country's grants system for needy children. Grants are currently available to families of children under five from the Karnali region, or from poor Dalit households, but beneficiary registration, data management, cash delivery systems, monitoring and evaluation all need to be strengthened.
"The percentage of children stunted because of malnutrition has shown little change over decades and unless efforts are scaled up, Nepal is in danger of missing a key Millennium Development Goal," said Barry J. Hitchcock, ADB's Country Director for Nepal. "This initiative will help the government to plan and execute more effective social protection programs, including improving delivery of grants to needy children."
To strengthen the grants system, support will be given to the Ministry of Local Development and local bodies, working with nongovernment organizations, to identify current bottlenecks and to develop new pilot mechanisms for cash delivery and monitoring that could eventually be replicated more broadly. A community-based infant and young child feeding, training and promotion package will be set up to complement the cash grants. Training and other assistance will be given to central and local government officials to help them improve the design and delivery of protection programs and to finalize a national social protection framework.
The project will be carried out in five districts in Karnali Zone, a remote region with the lowest socioeconomic indicators in the country. Performance goals include cutting the incidence of underweight children under five years of age by at least 25% by project end, and increasing actual coverage of child grants to 85% of eligible recipients.
Along with the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction Grant, the Government of Nepal will provide over $3.7 million, UNICEF $417,000, and communities over $29,000 in-kind, for a total investment cost of almost $6.2 million. The Ministry of Local Development will be the executing agency for the project which will run for three years and is expected to be completed by early 2014.