It was a special day on Sunday, December 11, 2011 at the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC) as Special Advisor to the State for Global Youth Issues, Mr. Ronan Farrow and Ms. Lauren Lovelace, Director of the American Center, visited the institute in Baridhara. Mr. Farrow gave a lecture and engaged in discussions on global youth leadership issues with a classroom packed with enthusiastic BYLC graduates. In his address to the graduates, he expressed his strong belief that they are to play a key role in confronting challenges of the world. He shared that one of the greatest lessons in life that he received is “the realization that how powerful youth can be when given voice and equipped with tools.”
I am partway through a trip to the countries of the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia), where winter is settling in—snow in Tbilisi and Yerevan, and a raw wind on Baku’s seafront.
It is a diverse region at the proverbial crossroads, but one common trait is a bleak health financing environment. All three countries rely on out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures for about two-thirds of total health spending, well above their peer groups, including other countries of the former Soviet Union or middle-income countries around the world. As a result, the incidence of “impoverishing” and “catastrophic” health spending by households—both common indicators of financial protection—are among the highest in the world. Besides costing some households dearly, OOP expenditures also keep many others away from the hospital or clinic: Utilization rates are among the lowest in Europe and Central Asia.
How did the Caucasus become such OOP outliers? The proximate causes are clear enough: large formal or informal payments for health care and high prices and overconsumption of pharmaceuticals. Many of these issues, in turn, can be traced to low levels of government spending on health, around 1.8% of GDP in all three countries, roughly half the regional average. Health spending is low as a share of government budgets, as well. As a result, providers recover costs directly from patients, and can have more latitude to engage in rent-seeking in the absence of stronger pooling and purchasing mechanisms.
There are "missing women" everywhere. Parents worldwide, and especially in Asia, have strong preferences for sons over daughters, which causes them to selectively abort female fetuses (Arnold et al., 2002;
On Nov. 11, 2011, farmers, business owners, nurses and people from all walks of life and backgrounds took a moment to answer one question: “What does it mean for you to have a job?" Their answers were captured for the One Day on Earth project, which asked citizens around the world to help film 24-hours in the human experience. Forty-eight flip cameras provided by One Day on Earth were sent to our World Bank country offices around the globe.
We want to increase (girls) education… but what’s the best way to do this?
Across developing countries, there is considerable under-investment in children's human capital; it is reflected in low immunization rates, child malnutrition, high drop-out rates, etc. Because of the (both individual and aggregate) long-term effects of human capital investment during childhood, governments across the globe have designed and implemented policies to encourage parents to invest more in the health and education of their children (numerous conditional cash transfer programs across countries are some examples).
It took almost two hours to drive the seven kilometers between the World Bank offices to reach Kabul University. The streets were clogged with frustrated drivers performing adroit maneuvers to steer through the stop-and-go traffic.
The tree-lined paths of the university are a still and silent oasis from the raucous, dusty streets of the city center just outside. Young people walk in pairs, stop to chat or read in the winter sunshine.
I am here to meet with a group of 18 students who use a dedicated corner of the student library funded by the World Bank. Here, students can use five computers and a printer for free. But demand is high so the wait for a computer can be two to three hours at a stretch.
The girls tell me there are few other options for them. They cannot go to an internet café on their own to do their research without a male relative accompanying them. When asked how many have computers almost all hands go up. But internet access is prohibitively expensive for them and the service very slow. The World Bank corner offers them a lifeline to do their research and access materials not available in the library.
In Burundi, a World Bank-supported project focused on educating female sex workers about the risks of contracting HIV/AIDS and other diseases has contributed to Burundi's overall declining infection rate.
Thirty years after the HIV/AIDS virus first appeared, more than 34 million people world-wide are living with HIV. Sub Saharan Africa is most heavily impacted; some 68 percent of all those living with HIV live in the region. Despite the high prevalence, the HIV incidence rate declined by more than 25 percent between 2001 and 2009 in 22 Sub-Saharan Africa countries. In West and Central Africa, HIV prevalence remained under two percent in 12 countries.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé outlines what the global community is doing to further fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.
For the World AIDS Day, there is a sign at the World Bank that states that taking ARVs reduces rate of HIV transmission by 96%. If this was last year, a sign somewhere may well have read “A cheap microbicidal gel that women can use up to 12 hours before sexual intercourse reduces HIV infection risk by more than half – when used consistently.” Well, sadly, it turns out, so much for that.