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Colombia to improve poor families’ health, nutrition, and education with IDB assistance

The Inter-American Development Bank approved a $220 million loan to support Colombia’s Familias en Acción conditional cash transfer program aimed at improving the health, nutrition and education of poor families.

Familias en Acción, Colombia’s highly-successful conditional cash transfer program, was established in 2001 with the dual objective of contributing to poverty reduction through direct cash transfers to families, and stimulating household investment in child health and education.

The program provides financial assistance to households provided they meet a series of school attendance and medical checkup requirements for their children. It operates in virtually all municipalities, covering more than 2.6 million families, including displaced and indigenous households, or nearly one-quarter of Colombia’s population.

The Bank has been a financial and technical partner throughout the nearly 10 years of the program’s implementation, playing a key role in providing technical assistance for the design and evaluation of Familias en Acción in the past decade. The current loan will finance the second stage of the program’s expansion to urban municipalities and targets 1.5 million families.

First stage evaluations have shown that Familias en Acción, has had a clear impact on schooling, nutrition, disease, and the use of health care and educational services. Second stage goals comprise supplementing the income of poor urban families with children under 18 years of age; increasing the use of early childhood development, educational, and health care services; strengthening the program’s technical management tools; and implementing modifications in the program to improve its effectiveness.

Among goals of the second stage of Familias en Acción is to cut chronic malnutrition in children between 0-5 years to 6.6 percent from 8.6 percent and boost use of preventive health care services to 75 percent from 71 percent in children between 3-5 years as well as increase the rate of children under 2 receiving full immunization to 86 percent from 83 percent. 

After ten years of operation of Familias en Acción, it is expected that the agenda of adjustments that will be addressed during loan implementation will further enhance its recognized efficiency and effectiveness.

The loan is for a 25-year term, including a two-year grace period, and carries a variable interest rate based on LIBOR.