Gujarat secures $350m loan from World Bank to boost health services

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New Delhi: The World Bank on Thursday announced that it has approved a $350 million (over Rs 2,832 crore) loan to Gujarat for expenditure on public health services, with a special focus on adolescent girls and disease surveillance.

The World Bank’s board of directors has approved the $350 million loan to the state, the multilateral funding agency said.

Funding will come from the World Bank, a branch of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), with a maturity of 18 years, including a grace period of 5.5 years.

The loan will be utilized under the state government’s SRESTHA-G (Systems Reform Endeavors for Transformed Health Achievement In Gujarat) programme. This will enable more people to access a wider range of high-quality health services, the World Bank said.

Gujarat currently provides seven health services to its citizens including reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health, communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The World Bank funding will help the state further expand these services to include mental health and palliative health services and also strengthen non-communicable services in the state.

“This program will improve access to traditional health services while supporting state efforts to open access to new services, such as mental health and palliative care, thereby contributing to improved health outcomes. health for the people of Gujarat,” said Auguste Tano Kouame, the Bank’s World Country Director for India.

Over the years, the state has steadily improved various key health indicators, including reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health. However, challenges remain as 69% of adolescent girls and 36% of adolescent boys suffer from anaemia, he said.

Additionally, 10% of rural residents and 5% of urban residents in the state have mental health issues.

The World Bank said SRESTHA-G will have a particular focus on improving the health and nutrition of adolescent girls and boys, with priority given to 14 districts where more than 70 percent of adolescent girls are anemic.

Among other things, it will also support a population-based screening process with the help of Accredited Local Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs).

People at high risk for non-communicable or other diseases will be encouraged to visit their public healthcare provider. It will also help the state develop surveillance systems for early detection of epidemics.

It will spearhead the “one health” agenda, including the fight against antimicrobial resistance, the World Bank said.

“Gujarat has a strong health service delivery system at primary, secondary and tertiary levels,” said Rahul Pandey and Andrew Sunil Rajkumar, the SRESTHA-G program team leaders.

The World Bank will support increased transparency and accountability of the health system through public reporting and better citizen engagement by establishing annual health assemblies or Swasthya Parishad.

It will also introduce innovative ways to address issues related to adolescent health and nutrition in the state, they said.

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