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World Bank Approves $407 Million in Aid for Ethiopian Services

The World Bank approved $407 million in assistance for Ethiopian local administrations to improve public services.

The funds, $246.6 million of which is a grant, will be used by districts to improve education, health, agriculture, water and sanitation, and rural roads, the Washington-based bank said in an e-mailed statement today.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, will also contribute $523 million to the Protection of Basic Services program that runs until July 2012, while other donors, such as the U.S. and the European Union, have given $131.7 million.

The Horn of Africa nation, one of the world’s biggest recipients of aid, has made progress against development goals, although it has been criticized by campaign groups for human rights abuses and political repression.

Primary school enrollment increased to 87.9 percent from 68.5 percent in the five years through 2010, the child immunization rate rose to 82 percent from 70 percent, while rural access to drinking water increased to 65.8 percent from 46 percent, according to the statement. Budget transparency and accountability have also improved, the bank said.

Improving the quality of education should be a focus, according to the bank’s country director, Ken Ohashi.

“Expanding access has been the relatively easy part,” he said in the statement. “Increasingly, the challenge is quality.”

A “large component” of funds will continue to go toward “strengthening accountability and transparency systems,” Ohashi said in a phone interview today from Addis Ababa, the capital. “We do recognize there are concerns and we are working on that.”

In October, New York-based Human Rights Watch accused donor-funded programs, including the Protection of Basic Services, of being used by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front to maintain control by denying political opponents access to resources and services.

The allegations were rejected by the government.

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