Vienna, 18th March, 2016 (WAM) – Nineteen partner countries stand to benefit from the latest round of financing, totaling nearly US$154m that was approved at the 154th Session of the Governing Board of the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID).

Commenting on the fresh approvals, OFID Director-General Suleiman J Al-Herbish said: “These are the first approvals under our new Corporate Plan 2016–2025, which focuses on support to projects in the mutually reinforcing areas of energy, water, food security and transportation.”

Four grants totaling US$1.65m were also approved at the meeting to the following organizations: International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). US$500,000. This grant will help fund the program “Enhancing Food Security in Arab Countries, Phase II,” aimed at helping improve farmers’ livelihood and incomes and enhance food security through the dissemination of improved wheat farming practices and technologies. Around 30,000 people are expected to benefit from the program 20,000 of them farmers (other beneficiaries will include technicians, scientists, researchers and policy-makers). OFID’s contribution will support activities carried out in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, Palestine and Yemen.

Alliance to Fight Avoidable Blindness (initiative of the Islamic Development Bank). US$250,000. To improve access to, and quality of, eye care services in Niger by building and equipping an ophthalmic unit in Lamorde Hospital in the Niamey district. An estimated 30,000 people will have their sight restored through the provision of free cataract surgeries. Capacity building activities will also be undertaken among eye care specialists, ophthalmologists and other staff to ensure sustainability of the new unit.

Assistance to Social and Development Projects in Palestine. US$500,000, detailed below: The Welfare Association. US$250,000. To improve healthcare services for some 2,000 disabled and special-needs Palestinian children from marginalized communities.

Premiere Urgence Internationale. US$150,000. To provide funding and training and carry out awareness-raising activities to enhance incomes and boost living standards for 100 women farmers and their families (benefiting in total around 700 people) ITF Enhancing Human Security. US$100,000. To provide rehabilitation services to those injured during the ongoing conflict and give specialized training to rehabilitation professionals.

United Nations Development Program (UNDP). US$400,000. To harness Somalia’s solar energy potential by demonstrating solar photo-voltaic (PV) and solar thermal solutions at health facilities in major cities/towns and other public buildings in the country. Direct beneficiaries of the project include around 30,000 hospital patients/year, and the thousands of people accessing or working at the public buildings.

Under OFID’s private sector, five financing facilities totaling over US$55m were approved. One will be provided to an entity with the objective to increase the generation and transmission of electricity in Bangladesh, while two others will support financial institutions in expanding their lending activities to micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises in Cambodia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The fourth is OFID’s first-ever sub-ordinated debt financing to a bank, to be extended to a lending institution in Nicaragua. This will strengthen the bank’s capital base, enabling it to further support long-term capital projects in the agriculture sector, a significant employer and major export industry for Nicaragua. Funds were also approved to a project in the Urban Development sector (commercial property) to help meet growing demands for office space in Mozambique.

Under OFID’s trade finance facility, US$15m was approved to a financing facility that supports the working capital needs of enterprises in Costa Rica dedicated to international trade activities. This will be OFID’s first-ever trade finance approval in the country.