India gets credit to strengthen food and drugs capacity building

Washington, June 5, 2003 - To help improve the quality and safety of food and drugs in India, the World Bank today approved a US$ 54 million credit to the Government of India. The Food and Drugs Capacity Building Project will be the first stage of a long-run program supporting the Government of India's vision of ensuring safe and high quality food and drugs for the Indian public. The project will benefit society at large, but in particular the poor, who will gain from lower morbidity and premature mortality as a result of increased safety and quality of foods and drugs available.
India has made considerable progress in improving the health status of its population in the last 50 years, but disparities between regions and between the poor and non-poor continue to widen. Food and drugs oversight is an essential public health function, but inadequate institutional arrangements and limited financial resources prevent the Government of India from fulfilling its role. In addition, India has a large and rapidly expanding food and drugs industry, and pharmaceuticals are a large and growing component of health care expenditure. Consumption of street foods as well as processed foods is also on the rise, as is the concern for consumer protection, particularly for the poor.

"The poor would especially benefit from the Food and Drugs Capacity Building Project because they are more likely to be victims of poor quality foods and access to medication," says G N V Ramana, a senior public health specialist for the World Bank and task leader for the project. "For example, recent household surveys in India indicate that the incidence of diarrhea in children under five is 20 percent higher for the poorest quintile of the population as compared to the highest quintile. The true difference is probably greater, since poor households tend to under-report illnesses."

The project has three components: Policy Development, Program Coordination and Monitoring, consisting of strengthening of the central government's food and drug directorates and improved program coordination and monitoring. Improvement of central physical facilities for food and drugs oversight, and related staffing are also included, as is monitoring activities, such as the implementation of household surveys to assess public perceptions and knowledge about quality and safety of foods and drugs, and the organization of independent audits of public and private laboratories. Food Safety, consisting of activities to strengthen the government's oversight and regulatory capacity for food safety at the central and State levels and to educate consumers on matters related to food safety. This component will also finance civil works, equipment, furniture, laboratory supplies, training, technical assistance, consultants, contracting of non-governmental organizations and media agencies, and incremental operating and maintenance costs. Drugs Quality and Safety, consisting of activities to strengthen the government's oversight and regulatory capacity for ensuring drugs quality at the central and State levels, to educate consumers on matters related to drugs quality and safety, and to upgrade related skills in public and private sectors. Information and education activities to improve consumer and prescriber awareness and behavior regarding quality and rational use of drugs, will also be carried out with the support of professional media agencies and NGOs.

The project will also support some key policy and institutional developments, such as increased government regulatory efficiency, and partnership between the public and private sectors. In the private sector, medium and small-scale manufacturers will benefit from opportunities for training and assistance in improving manufacturing processes and product quality.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will implement the project through its existing directorates for foods and drugs quality control. The credit from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank's concessionary lending arm, carries no interest and has a 35-year maturity.

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Contacts: In Delhi: Geetanjali Chopra (91 11) 461-7241 E-mail: In Washington: Karina Manasseh (202) 473-1729 E-mail: