ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday approved a $603 million results-based lending program to strengthen and expand social protection programs in Pakistan. Using conditional cash transfers, the program will support the implementation of Ehsaas, Pakistan’s national social protection and poverty reduction strategy, according to an ADB statement received on Wednesday. Under the Integrated Social Protection Development Program, ADB would provide a regular loan of $600 million and a $3 million grant from the Asian Development Fund, and would administer a $24 million grant from the Education Above All Foundation. “The program marks a significant shift in ADB’s strategic engagement in the social protection space in Pakistan in line with Ehsaas priorities,” said ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Yevgeniy Zhukov. “ADB’s support will transition from unconditional cash transfers that provide income support to a mixed-modality approach that focuses more on conditional cash transfers for education, health services, and nutritional supplies that will help reduce intergenerational poverty through human capital development,” Zhukov added. The program supports the Ehsaas goal of expanding cash transfers to improve access to primary and secondary education up to grade 10 for children and adolescents of poor families, especially girls, and enhancing health services and nutrition for women, adolescent girls, and poor children. It also aims to initiate coverage of accelerated learning programs at primary education level for overaged out-of-school children under conditional cash transfers. In addition, the program supports improvements in implementation and fiduciary capacity for Pakistan’s social protection programs. This will build on previous ADB support to further improve grievance redress, risk management, financial management, procurement, monitoring and evaluation, and management information systems—functions which help to strengthen internal controls. Pakistan is prone to the impacts of climate change and natural hazards, including floods, heat waves, and droughts which have a disproportionate impact on the poor and vulnerable. By leveraging Asian Development Fund resources for climate adaptation, the program will help identify and integrate appropriate climate resilience measures, such as vulnerability mapping and early warning systems. “ADB is a trusted and longstanding partner. This program is the result of years of engagement with ADB and other partners and focuses on areas where we believe the bank can have most impact. It is a key priority under the government’s Ehsaas strategy,” the press statement quoted Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr. Sania Nishtar as having said. “This program incentivizes parents to send their children to schools, particularly girls, and will help to provide specialized nutritious food and conditional cash transfers to children and mothers in the districts of Pakistan that most need it,” she added. Pakistan is a founding member of ADB. Since 1966, ADB has committed more than $36 billion to promote inclusive economic growth and improve the country’s infrastructure, energy and food security, transport networks, and urban and social services.