Improving Muslim Lives
The Lives and Livelihoods Fund
Four years ago, the world adopted an ambitious set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed ‘to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030’. Despite rising life expectancy and the eradication of many endemic diseases, more than 400 million people in the member states of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) still live in absolute poverty, subsisting on less than US$1.90 per day. It is, perhaps, these countries that face the greatest challenges in fulfilling the SDGs. Traditional methods of development finance have struggled to alleviate the extreme poverty in some regions of the world, leaving the poorest populations without the basic building blocks needed to lead healthy lives and build dignified livelihoods. Many remain deprived of primary healthcare, protection against infectious diseases, a sufficient and nutritious food supply, potable water, clean power, and sanitation.
With 11 years left to 2030, there is a sense of urgency and a recognition that innovative approaches are necessary to overcome the challenges IsDB Member Countries face in reaching the SDGs. This is where The Lives and Livelihoods Fund (LLF) comes in. Launched in 2016, the LLF is the product of a unique partnership model that provides highly concessional financing up to US$2.5 billion. It does so by combining the ordinary financing of the IsDB with donated grants from the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD), the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD), and the UK’s Department for International Development. Recipient low-income member countries pay back the IsDB while donors indirectly cover the markup rate under IsDB financing, in doing so dramatically reducing the cost of borrowing. The LLF, a bonded partnership compact between some of the biggest development organizations in the Gulf, targets the key drivers of poverty in the most marginalized Muslim populations. In particular, it seeks to address critical needs in health (specifically, primary healthcare & infectious disease control) agriculture (smallholder farmers’ production & productivity), and basic infrastructure.
The development impact of LLF investments is maximized further by combining technical support from international donors, innovative implementation models involving the private sector, and a special Project Preparation and Implementation Facility (PPIF). The PPIF is devoted to increasing the relevance, readiness and results (the 3Rs) of projects eligible for LLF funding, measuring them against a refined criteria for selection, and thus laying the foundations from which millions of lives can be saved and livelihoods secured. Thanks to the relentless efforts of the LLF Management Unit, in close collaboration with relevant IsDB entities and regional hubs, the Fund has approved projects worth over US$1.16 billion to a total of 19 different countries - and disbursements are only increasing.
With respect to health, the LLF has provided funding designed to improve the ability of IsDB member countries to eradicate infectious diseases. Notable examples include a US$100 million approved project in Pakistan to fight polio, and a US$32 million project in Senegal to eliminate malaria for good, both of which were in partnership with UNICEF and the Global Fund. Freeing these countries from such maladies allows their respective workforces to better contribute to economic development. The LLF also provides guidelines as to how recipient countries can provide better public healthcare to their populations. Cameroon, for instance, has received US$30 million of LLF funding for improving its healthcare system, while Djibouti was awarded a US$20 million of concessional financing to help improve its mother and child healthcare management. And the LLF isn’t neglecting its responsibility to help tackle the COVID-19 outbreak, either. It will be redistributing certain existing health investments to make sure essential services can continue running, as well as increasing them to help with the response to and recovery from the virus. Moreover, the LLF will invest in strengthening the agriculture sector in at-risk countries to ward off the potential collapse of this industry. COVID-19 affects us all, and the LLF will be playing its part to stop it.
In a joint effort with reputable development actors such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), BADEA, and IFAD, the LFF is revolutionizing the traditional way of feeding vulnerable populations. It does so by adopting an approach that addresses both nutrition and production, while also taking into account the value chain at a regional level, in order to maximize synergies between the private and public sector to achieve economies of scale. It was with this method that, in 2016, the LLF approved a US$90 million livestock value chain development project that covered Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. In 2016 and again in 2018, the Regional Rice Value Chain Development Program amounting to more than US$100 million and covering The Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Sierra Leone and Senegal was also announced. These investments contributed to helping recipient governments reduce their food self-sufficiency deficit, boost their livestock and agriculture production, and reduce their spending on food imports.
The LLF is also transforming the lives and livelihoods of millions of people through improving sanitation systems, thus dramatically reducing the disastrous spread and impact of waterborne diseases. To this end, the LLF has approved a US$54 million project to improve the water and sanitation of the city of Conakry in Guinea, and a US$49 million project for sustainably improving the sanitation system in Abidjan and eleven secondary cities in the Ivory Coast.
We are proud to confirm that the LLF is now acknowledged as the largest development initiative of its kind based in the Middle East. It has established itself as one of the best means IsDB member countries have of achieving the SDGs by the 2030 deadline. That being said, much remains to be done to address the many problems these countries face. Many still require support in rebuilding their national health care systems, developing food self-sufficiency, and strengthening their ability to provide potable water, clean power, and decent sanitation systems to their poorest communities.
Our ambition is to save millions of lives by eradicating extreme poverty and extending a helping hand to vulnerable people in the world. That the LLF has approved financing of over US$1.16 billion in the three years since its inception demonstrates that when committed actors join forces, anything is possible. We strongly encourage international donors, regional development actors, and all organizations committed to eradicating poverty and disease in the poorest countries to stand with us; for as a united front, we will achieve the SDGs by 2030.