The World Bank has granted US$ 442.4 million for uplift of social infrastructure in the rural areas of Punjab, including the Rural Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Project. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Government of Pakistan and the World Bank signed the financing agreement of “Punjab Rural Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Project” worth US$ 442.4 million here Sunday, said a press release issued by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (EAD). Secretary Economic Affairs, Noor Ahmed signed the financing agreement on behalf of the Government of Pakistan while Country Director, World Bank Najy Benhassine, signed the agreement on behalf of the World Bank. This project aims to provide equitable and sustainable access to clean drinking water; improve sanitation; and reduce child stunting in Punjab Province. The project interventions will cover 2,000 villages including 2,000 main settlements and 8,000 small settlements in sixteen (16) Districts of Punjab Province that are the poorest and have the worst social infrastructure and stunting issues. In line with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure equitable and inclusive socioeconomic opportunities, eight districts from South Punjab; Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, DG Khan, Lodhran, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan and Rajanpur are included in the project. Furthermore, eight other districts from Central and North Punjab i.e. Bhakkar, Chakwal, Chiniot, Jhang, Khushab, Mianwali, Pakpattan and Sarghodha are also included after due diligence. The project will directly impact the life of common man and create employment opportunities in the rural areas. The Government will invest in social infrastructure and improve service delivery to provide potable water through cost-effective and sustainable investments, offer safely managed sanitation facilities to reduce the total fecal burden in the village environment; and raise awareness and promote behavior change for better hygiene practices at the household and community level to promote health and ensure the sustainability and quality of the water source. The project interventions will directly benefit six million rural people of Punjab and will support in reducing the incidence of stunting among children aged 0-3 (40 percent) in Punjab. Minister for Economic Affairs, Omar Ayub Khan appreciated the World Bank’s efforts by highlighting that this was a signature project which reflects the vision of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to invest in human capital and to improve the living standard of the people. The Minister further stated that today’s event was a reflection of continued confidence by the IFIs on the Government’s policies, economic reforms and people-centered programs. He reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to extend all possible support to the Provincial Governments in their efforts to invest in human capital by addressing challenges to health and education; building resilience, improving service delivery and promoting economic opportunities to ensure inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the country. The Secretary EAD thanked the World Bank’s Country team for extending their continuous support to the Government of Pakistan to help achieve sustainable economic development in Pakistan. Country Director World Bank, Najy Benhassine ensured the World Bank’s continued financial and technical support to Government of Pakistan in achieving the priority development objectives and to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the country.