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Staff Correspondent
The government on Monday inked two financing agreements totalling US$200 million with the World Bank.
The deals have been signed to improve the forest cover in the country’s coastal, hill and central districts, including Cox’s Bazar, and help Bangladesh provide education to Rohingya children and youth who have fled violence in Myanmar.
Out of the total amount, the Washington-based lending agency will provide $175 million against Sustainable Forests and Livelihoods Project which will help improve forest cover through a collaborative forest management approach involving local communities.
Besides, it will provide $25 million to help Bangladesh provide education and support to heal the psychological wounds of Rohingya children and youths who have fled violence in Myanmar.
Both the agreements were signed by Economic Relations Division (ERD) Secretary Monowar Ahmed and World Bank Country Director Qimiao Fan on behalf of the government and the World Bank, respectively, at the ERD in the city’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar.
The credit to the Sustainable Forests & Livelihoods Project from the World Bank’s International Development Association has a 30-year term, including a five-year grace period.
The $175 million Sustainable Forests & Livelihoods Project will plant trees in about 79,000 hectares of forest through a collaborative forest management system. The proportion to land under forests is only 11 percent in Bangladesh which is significantly lower than the Asian average of 26 percent.
By increasing forest cover, the project will help the country become more climate resilient. It will also help about 40,000 poor, local households earn more money through alternative income generation activities.
The sudden influx of over 725,000 Rohingya to Cox’s Bazar caused the loss of nearly 13,000 hectares of forest. The project will restore trees in 19,925 hectare of land in Cox’s Bazar.
It will also help the host communities through income generation activities, improving availability of wood for fuel in a sustainable way and reducing human-wild elephant conflict, which has increased due to loss of habitat.
“Despite its own challenges, Bangladesh generously provided shelter to about a million Rohingya refugees. The local people, many of whom are poor, welcomed the displaced Rohingya and shared food and resources. But the needs of both the Rohingya and the host community are huge,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal.
“These financing with help the government improve resilience and livelihoods of the host community as well as address the learning and psycho-social needs of Rohingya children and adolescents”, he added.
The $25 million Additional Financing to the existing Reaching Out of School Children Project II (ROSC II), also signed on the day, will help about 350,000 Rohingya children and adolescents get basic education and psychosocial support.
The grant will help recruit and train about 2,000 teachers and instructors. More than half of the teachers will be female, who will be trained to help girls manage safety concerns and if needed, guide them to safe locations. The preparation of text books and learning materials will adhere to the government’s Learning Competency Framework.
The existing project is also being extended for two years, which will bring poor children from the host community in the area back to school in Cox’s Bazar, which has the lowest net education enrolment rate in the country.
The project extension will provide training to more than 17,000 local adolescents and help them with job placement.
Since January 2018, the project has provided training, employment and enterprise development support to about 8,000 local adolescents who have dropped out from school.
Of the $25 million financing to the ROSC II project, the World Bank will provide $21 million as a grant through the IDA18 Regional Sub-window for Refugees and Host Communities and the Government of Canada will provide a $4 million grant.