Vientiane (VNA) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) is providing 2.1 million USD (17.5 billion kip) in initial assistance for the strengthening of healthcare services in Laos, local media reported.

With 11.3 million USD committed for 2016-17, the amount of funding has increased by 22 percent over 2014-15, the English-language newspaper Vientiane Times said.

An agreement for the funding was signed in Vientiane on February 8 by Minister of Health, Associate Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong, and WHO Representative to Laos, Dr Juliet Fleischl, in the presence of director generals of the ministry's health departments.

Speaking at the ceremony, Assoc. Prof. Dr Bounkong said the WHO was a good partner to Laos because it played an essential role in improving the health sector and was a strong supporter of health reform.

He was pleased to see that health projects were taking into account Laos' commitment to achieve the health-related Sustainable Development Goals along with other health priorities.

The funding will support efforts to reduce the mortality rate of mothers and children; improve and increase the quality of healthcare services for mothers and infants; and bolster communicable diseases surveillance and response including the control of HIV/AIDS, dengue fever, tuberculosis and other diseases.

Dr Fleischl said the 2017 annual funding plan would continue to directly support the Ministry of Health in agreed technical areas of the 8th Health Sector Development plan such as immunisation, communicable diseases surveillance and response, and maternal and child health, as well as strengthening the health system.

Under this new plan most of the funding is allocated to the Expanded Programme for Immunisation and Emerging Diseases Surveillance and Response.

The annual funding plan developed by the WHO and the Ministry of Health's Department of Planning and International Cooperation was adopted by other development partners and remains the main tool to support the aid strategy.

The annual funding plan for 2017 is in line with the new Lao People's Democratic Republic - WHO Country Cooperation Strategy for 2017-2021 which will be launched later this month, according to the newspaper.-VNA