Last month, I attended the International Family Planning Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, where policymakers from across the world gathered to strategize about ways to achieve a demographic dividend—the increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita that comes from having a young and productive labor force driving economic growth that is faster than population growth. I was heartened to be joined by ministers of finance and representatives of the highest levels of government, all of whom agreed that women’s empowerment–which centrally includes access to reproductive health services–-is essential for inclusive, sustainable growth.
On Sunday, many fathers around the world received cards and gifts from their children in celebration of Father’s Day. But fathers who have been following the academic and policy debates in the development community may feel somewhat exasperated that the role of men in the household and of fathers in raising children gets so little mention. It is the role of mothers that generally takes the spotlight; but what about fathers?
A year ago, if you had asked me how best a child could reach its potential, I would have looked through my myopic, public health, physician’s lens, and responded that making sure children (0-5years) are healthy and well-nourished is all it takes.
However, six months into the World Bank’s “Africa Early Years” fellowship and I realize I would have been abysmally wrong.
We took over the management of the obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatric hospital in Yaoundé (HGOPY) in 2014, inheriting an institution that faced chronic structural debt, obsolete equipment, and dilapidated buildings. No debt repayment plan was in place and fixed expenses such as staff salaries and benefits were extremely high.
This situation was regrettably common in many institutions across Africa which were hit hard by the economic and social crisis that resulted from structural adjustment policies implemented in by several countries, including Cameroon. Furthermore, the decision to increase health care charges adversely affected the poorest, limiting their access to health care and leading to a rise in maternal and infant mortality rates.
In response, African countries signed the Abuja Declaration in 2000, committing to earmark at least 15% of their national budget to the health sector. In addition to the goal of providing universal health care, the sector was expected to enhance the performance, effectiveness, and efficiency of its services.
There has been an increase in attention on Africa’s changing population. Academics, development organizations and the media (among others, BBC, The Guardian, Financial Times, The Economist) have highlighted Africa’s late demographic transition – the population is young and will remain so for a long time, as fertility rates are not falling there at the same rate as they have fallen in the rest of the world.
Of the total US$15.4 billion pledged by the international community at the end of the first day of the meeting of the Consultative Group on Côte d’Ivoire held on May 17, 2016 in Paris, the World Bank Group (IDA, IFC, MIGA) will commit the sum of US$5 billion (CFAF 2500 billion) to finance Côte d’Ivoire’s Second National Development Plan (NDP) covering the period 2016-2020. This amount is double the sum allocated during the previous period (2012-2016), proof—if any were needed—that the World Bank is more than ever committed to helping Côte d’Ivoire achieve emerging country status. This new country partnership framework between the World Bank Group and Côte d’Ivoire is an important milestone.
In May, the World Health Organization released numbers on how many health workers in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have been affected by Ebola. The numbers are striking: For these heroic workers, the probability of being infected by Ebola is 21 to 32 times more likely than for a member of the general public.
As international donors gather this week in Brussels to mobilize resources for Guinea-Bissau, the government and people of this West African nation appear ready for a fresh start.