JUBA, June 27 (Xinhua) — Nearly 750,000 vulnerable individuals in South Sudan have benefited from access to improved water, sanitation, education, and health facilities under the Enhancing Community Resilience & Local Governance Project (ECRP) phase I, the World Bank said Wednesday.

The four-year project, funded to the tune of 45 million U.S. dollars by the World Bank, was implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on behalf of the government of South Sudan.

Firas Raad, the World Bank country manager in South Sudan, said during the closing ceremony of phase I of the project in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, that the project has improved access to basic infrastructure, strengthened community institutions, and enhanced livelihoods.

“We are quite proud of the fact that the ECRP I, was one of the key projects within the country that mobilized rapidly to support services for communities affected by the 2016 conflict, it provided an opportunity to complete the backlog of unfunded sub-projects under the previous local project,” Raad said.

He observed that phase I of the project involved all segments of society, including women, youth, internally displaced persons, ex-combatants, and persons with disabilities, in the local development process. “This inclusive approach, which mobilizes all stakeholders on the ground, is an important contributor to social cohesion in the country and, in turn, promotes greater peace and stability,” Raad said.

Under the project, more than 345 complete physical infrastructures including 33 primary school blocks, 31 health facilities, 258 water facilities, 11 market sheds, nine community access roads, and four community youth centers built in 20 counties were handed over to the government of South Sudan.

Petronella Kasaka Halwiindi, the UNOPS country manager in South Sudan, said the project has created a lasting impact in the communities across the 20 counties in all the 10 states in the country.

“We have read stories of women who are now able to give birth in clean spaces, with the help of health workers because we established special one health facilities that were constructed and electrified, enrolment and retention rates have increased due to the 68 learning spaces created and sanitary facilities that we constructed in these primary schools that were crucial in keeping girls in school,” Kasaka said.

She observed that the project has built the capacity of Boma and Payam development committees to meaningfully decide on what development activities they ought to prioritize in their areas.

Paul Segawa, acting project manager for the ongoing ECRP II project, said the second phase of the project is largely focused on disaster risk management, such as flood mitigation and climate shocks.

“The project has already started; it is two years down the road already, and we still have about three years to go, so right now, we are ramping up our activities in terms of community infrastructure and disaster risk management; we are putting a lot of emphasis on flood mitigation and climate shocks. We are ramping up activities in flood protection infrastructure and flood investments,” Segawa said.