Holidays for me have always been about family and food. A time to relax, catch-up with loved ones and eat good food. When it’s our turn to cook, my husband and I take time to plan the menu. A central part of our meals are vegetables and fresh fruits but we have also learnt over the years that a good meal needs fresh ingredients, all procured as close to the preparation of the meal as possible.
Sri Lanka has not disappointed in its array of fruits and vegetables. I am still discovering the names of many; some of which I will never be able to pronounce for sure. Despite that, I love eating them!
Amongst my favourites are papaya, mangoes and kankun, the last for which I share a passion with my two pet turtles. But getting these vegetables and fruits from the same supplier on a constant basis is a challenge. Even common produce like onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers can be discoloured or squishy – not at all appetizing or conducive for a salad or other such type of fresh dish.
The price, of course, is the same whatever the quality. Fresh produce can be expensive, and regularly buying a variety of fruits and vegetables does strain the budgets of many families in Sri Lanka. Needless to say, this shouldn’t be the case in a country with such rich soils and plentiful sunshine.
The question of access to fresh and healthy food goes beyond our holiday tables. According to the World Health Organisation, 1 in 5 premature deaths in Sri Lanka are due to a non-communicable disease (NCD) such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer. Tobacco use, unhealthy diets, harmful use of alcohol and physical inactivity have all been identified as risk factors.
A new report on mental health in Ukraine offers a sobering picture of the often-ignored disease burden of mental disorders, which undermine human capital development and total wealth accumulation in a country. The World Bank Group estimates show that unaccounted “intangible capital” such as human capital, constitutes the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries, more than produced capital and natural resources.
There are the booming megacities such as Tokyo, Mumbai, and Nairobi. Then there are cities that are declining in population, such as Detroit.
In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where we recently conducted a study on urban growth trends, we found unique demographic patterns affecting the urbanization process in the region.
For example, the region has had fertility rates below replacement levels for more than two decades, and most countries in the region have negative net migration rates.
This signifies that the population of most countries in the region is either growing very slowly or declining, and in some countries urban population has started to decline.
What does this mean for cities?
Resulting from this competition, we find that most of the cities in the region are shrinking while population growth is increasingly concentrated in a few cities. Per our estimates, 61% of the region’s cities shrank between 2000 and 2010, losing on average 11% of their population.
This scale of city population decline is unprecedented.
In South Asia, a region where girls are now going to school in unprecedented numbers, Malala means many things to many people. To parents who send their daughters to school with difficulty, she validates a growing belief in power of girls’ education to liberate families from poverty. To schoolgirls in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Nepal, she is an icon of victory and hope. And to governments and development partners, she represents the millions of girls who arrive in school every morning trusting that education will prepare them well for life, and also those so poor or disadvantaged that they do not enroll even at the primary level.
The viral image of the three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose dead body was quietly lying on the beach captivated us. Kurdi’s loss of the chance to flee to a safer life invigorated us to act. We decided to help refugee children adapt to their new lives when arriving in a new country.
And so, our team from the World Bank Youth Innovation Fund (YIF) partnered with Small Projects Istanbul (SPI), a Turkish non-profit organization, to help 20 Syrian children find some happiness and joy in Turkey after fleeing their war-torn country.
YIF provides an opportunity for young employees of the World Bank Group to design, implement and evaluate development projects in client countries focusing on innovation, efficiency and impact on development.
After submitting a proposal to the YIF Proposal Competition, and winning, our journey began. Our project, Turkish Language, Mentorship and Psychological Counseling Program, aimed to support these children to effectively integrate with the local society, develop self-confidence, and have access to education while living in Turkey.
Almost one in three married Pakistani women report facing physical violence from their husbands. The informal estimates are much higher. Such violence is not only widespread, it is also normalized. According to Bureau of Statistics, more than half of the women respondents in one province believe that it is ok for a husband to beat his wife under certain circumstances; and these attitudes are not much different in the rest of the country.
This violence also has serious implications on economic growth. Only 22% of women are formally reported to participate in the Pakistani workforce. Yet working is often not a choice and comes with risks.
This means some women face the risk of being sexually harassed, and assaulted by men outside their home if they choose to work. However, studies indicate that some women may also face violence within their households because of perceived dishonor and a threat to masculinity when they work outside the home. Intimate partner violence is expensive, in terms of medical cost, and missed days of work. However, what is harder to cost for is the psychological trauma due to violence that prevents women from achieving their full potential.
Stories of sexting, sex tapes, online dating gone wrong and cyberbullying are all over social media and the news. However, these stories only begin to scratch the surface of online – or technology-facilitated – gender-based violence (GBV). With a wide range of online predatory behaviors essentially falling under one label, how do we define it? How can we begin to tackle the problem if we can’t grasp the full breadth of the problem?
The World Bank Group and the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) has engaged the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) to develop a way to measure technology-facilitated GBV on a global scale. To do this, our team is in the beginning stages of developing a conceptual framework. The reasoning behind this initiative is that, in order to tackle a problem like online violence, we must first get to the root of the problem by understanding the many ways online violence manifests itself. As researchers, defining the problem provides us with the insights we need to determine how to approach and measure the problem. And if we can measure it, we can start testing solutions.
Aqeela Asifi is the 2015 winner of UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award, recognized for her indefatigable efforts to educate Afghan girl refugees. She was a guest panelist at the "Managing Displaced Populations—Lessons From Pakistan" discussion with President Jim Yong Kim during his two day visit to Pakistan last week.
Her car broke down during her long journey to Islamabad from Kot Chandana, a refugee village where she lives in the south-eastern Punjab province of Pakistan.
Tired she may be, and notwithstanding a panel discussion on the Afghan refugee situation still ahead of her, she has a story to tell and nothing will stop her.
Her quiet, almost shy demeanor belies her fierce determination: Aqeela Asifi is a refugee, teacher, champion of girl’s education, an inspiration to thousands of her students, and a 2015 winner of UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award.
Her story is one of resilience against all odds.
Like hundreds of thousands of other Afghans, she was forced to flee Afghanistan in 1992 when civil war broke out in the country. She left everything behind: her family, her house, and a job as a teacher in Kabul, and ended up in Kot Chandana, a village in Pakistan, which then hosted nearly 180,000 other refugees. By the early 1990s, more than three million exiled Afghans had crossed Pakistan’s border, putting additional pressure on the country’s infrastructure and social services, notably health services and schools. What Asifi witnessed was a complete lack of learning facilities and opportunities for girls in her newfound community. “When I started living at a refugee camp I saw girls’ education was the most neglected area,” she says. “Girls were not even aware of education and its importance in their lives. They didn’t know anything about books, pencils, and it was then when I realized that this community needed my help.”
On May 25, I attended a workshop organized by the Harvard School of Public Health, titled “Causal Inference with Highly Dependent Data in Communicable Diseases Research.” I got to meet many of the “who’s who” of this literature from the fields of biostatistics, public health, and political science, among whom was Elizabeth Halloran, who co-authored this paper with Michael Hudgens – one of the more influential papers in the field.