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What El Niño teaches us about climate resilience

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
It was recorded by the Spanish conquistadors, and triggered famines that have been linked to China’s 1901 Boxer Rebellion and even the French revolution.

Named by Peruvian fishermen because of its tendency to appear around Christmastime, El Niño is the planet’s most large-scale and recurring mode of climate variability. Every 2-7 years, a slackening of trade winds that push sun-warmed water across the Pacific contributes to a rise in water temperature across large parts of the ocean. As the heat rises, a global pattern of weather changes ensues, triggering heat waves in many tropical regions and extreme drought or rainfall in others.

The fact that we are undergoing a major El Niño event should cause major concern and requires mobilization now. Already, eight provinces in the Philippines are in a state of emergency due to drought; rice farmers in Vietnam and Thailand have left fields unplanted due to weak rains; and 42,000 people have been displaced by floods in Somalia.

And this is before the event reaches its peak. Meteorologists see a 95% chance of the El Niño lasting into 2016, with its most extreme effects arriving between now and March. Coastal regions of Latin America are braced for major floods; India is dealing with a 14% deficit in the recent monsoon rains; and poor rainfalls could add to insecurity in several of Africa’s fragile states. Indeed, Berkeley Professor Soloman Hsiang has used historical data to demonstrate that the likelihood of new conflict outbreaks in tropical regions doubles from 3% to 6% in an El Niño year.

But despite its thousand-year history, the devastation associated with El Niño is not inevitable. Progress made by many other countries since the last major event, in 1997-98, shows that we can get a grip on its effect – and others caused by climate trends.

How can the World Bank better support persons with disabilities? Send us your ideas

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
As part of the World Bank Group Annual Meetings that took place in Lima last October, we organized a Wikistage event to discuss the corrosive effects and the social and economic implications of exclusion. The World Bank Group has two corporate goals: to support developing countries in the elimination of extreme poverty by 2030, and the boosting of shared prosperity. The main message of the Wikistage event was simple: it is impossible to achieve these goals if countries and societies do not tackle the root causes of exclusion.

One of the statements that has stayed with me from the event was from Victor Pineda, President of World Enabled. He said: “Disability does not discriminate. Each and every one could, at any point, fall into disability. It’s the only minority group that everybody can join” We are an accident away to join a group that is commonly excluded by societies around the world.

Fortunately, the development community has begun to realize the critical role of exclusion, and in particular exclusion of people with disabilities. This has been a year of fundamental change for the recognition of peoples with disabilities in the development agenda through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

The Post-2015 Development Agenda clearly states that disability cannot be a reason or criteria for lack of access to development programs. The new framework is audacious. It unequivocally bolsters equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in access to education, vocational training, jobs, transportation, public spaces, human settlements, and political life.

The SDGs include seven targets that explicitly refer to persons with disabilities; and six further targets on persons in vulnerable situations, which include persons with disabilities.

These targets alongside the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, now ratified by 160 countries provide both the moral imperative and clear milestones to ensure that persons with disabilities can fully participate in and benefit from poverty reduction and development efforts.

Our research in the World Bank shows the many ways in which persons with disabilities are ignored, stereotyped, and stigmatized in the countries where we work. The rising attention to issues of social inclusion is based on the realization that, while great strides have been made in reducing extreme poverty, in country after country, entire groups remain excluded from development gains.

Our social inclusion flagship report – Inclusion Matters – highlights the importance of societies to provide the ability and the opportunity to excluded populations to access services, markets, and spaces. Furthermore, our research shows that without a sense of dignity, providing the ability and opportunity to excluded populations is not enough to achieve a transformation of their well-being.

In Lima, inequality debate focuses on women, youth, and taxes

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español
Paraisopolis, São Paulo, Brazil. © Tuca Vieira


​Can we end extreme poverty in a world with extreme inequality? That question inspired a spirited debate in English and Spanish on Oct. 7, just ahead of the World Bank Group-IMF Annual Meetings in Lima, Peru, addressing corruption, taxation, discrimination against women, and the need to even the playing field for the younger generation.

Latin America’s experience with inequality was front and center at the live-streamed event, Inequality, Opportunity, and Prosperity, featuring World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, Ibero-American Secretary General Rebeca Grynspan, Oxfam International Chair Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight,  and moderated by CNN Español news anchor Patricia Janiot.

Taking a bite out of Haiti’s rabies problem

Caroline Plante's picture
Officials vaccinate a dog against rabies in Haiti.
Photo: Dr. Michel Chancy, State Secretary for Animal Production in Haiti



Rabies is a serious public health problem in Haiti. Although human rabies in the Americas has declined by more than 95% since 1980, Bolivia, Guatemala, Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Haiti continue to experience cases. The problem is most acute in Haiti, which accounts for 70% of all deaths caused by rabies in the region.
 
This is the main reason behind the Haitian Government's campaign to vaccinate over 500,000 dogs and reduce the incidence of rabies on the island. Dr. Michel Chancy, State Secretary for Animal Production in Haiti, has repeatedly said that dogs are responsible for more than 99% of all cases of human rabies on the island. Not to mention the fact that human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies are known to be underreported, and estimated to be up to 200 per year. 

Get smarter: A world of development data in your pocket!

Nagaraja Rao Harshadeep's picture
Many dinner conversations and friendly debates proceed in a data vacuum: “The problem is big… very big!” How big exactly? Most likely your friend has no idea. 

It is often said that we live in a new data age. Institutions such as the Bank, UN agencies, NASA, ESA, universities and others have deluged us with an overwhelming amount of new data obtained painstakingly from countries and surveys or observed by the increasing number of eyes in the sky. We have modern tools such as mobile phones that are more powerful than old mainframes I used to use in my university days. You can be in rural Malawi and still have access to decent 3G data networks.
 
Open data for sustainable development

Why is the World Bank on Medium?

Elizabeth Howton's picture
Also available in: 中文
A woman in a market in Guatemala City, Guatemala. © Maria Fleischmann/World Bank


The World Bank is working toward two incredibly ambitious goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and ensuring shared prosperity for the bottom 40% of the population in each developing country. To achieve these goals will take not only the World Bank Group, the United Nations and all the national and multilateral development agencies, it will take all of us.

There is no planet B

Paula Caballero's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية
Zanizbar, Tanzania. Photo by Sonu Jani / World Bank

At this week's UN Sustainable Development Summit, the world's oceans will be getting the attention they have long deserved -- but not always received. They are the focus of Sustainable Development Goal 14: "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development."

The inclusion of oceans for the first time in the international-development agenda illustrates the ambitious and holistic view of challenges and solutions that nations are embracing. With the SDGs, nations are calling for a future in which nature is managed to drive economies, enhance well-being and sustain lives -- whether in Washington or Nairobi, on land or sea.

Fifteen years ago, nations convened at the UN and created an unprecedented set of guideposts, the Millennium Development Goals. In that timespan, the number of people living in extreme poverty was more than halved. But the oceans were not part of those goals. We now have the opportunity to focus minds globally on restoring healthy oceans for resilient economies and thriving communities. 

This attention comes not a moment too soon.

Universal health coverage in a generation is achievable

Bertrand Badré's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | 中文 | Español
A nurse cleans a newborn in a Sierra Leone hospital. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


​As the father of four children, I know how important access to good, quality health care is. All parents aspire to be able to provide the same for their children. That’s why we at the World Bank Group are working with our partners around the globe to make universal health coverage a reality for all.

Uniting finance and development has been a lifelong passion of mine. Earlier in my career, I supported then French President Jacques Chirac with the development of an international airline ticket solidarity tax to provide global public goods for the poor. This kind of innovative thinking eventually led to the creation of UNITAID which works to prevent, treat, and diagnose HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria more quickly, cheaply and effectively. Other innovative financing mechanisms include the International Finance Facility for Immunization and the Global Vaccine Initiative.

Old fuel for a new future: the potential of wood energy

Paula Caballero's picture
A woman buying a clean cookstove in Tanzania. Klas Sander / World Bank

The use of wood energy – including firewood and charcoal – is largely considered an option of last resort. It evokes time-consuming wood collection, health hazards and small-scale fuel used by poor families in rural areas where there are no other energy alternatives.

And to a certain extent this picture is accurate. A study by the Alliance for Clean Cookstoves found that women in India spend the equivalent of two weeks every year collecting firewood, which they use to cook and heat their homes. Indoor air pollution caused by the smoke from burning firewood is known to lead to severe health problems: the WHO estimates 4.3 million deaths a year worldwide attributed to diseases associated with cooking and heating with solid fuels. Incomplete combustion creates short-lived climate pollutants, which also act as powerful agents of climate change.

But wood is a valuable source of energy for many of the 2.9 billion people worldwide who lack access to clean cooking facilities, including in major cities. It fuels many industries, from brickmaking and metal processing in the Congo Basin to steel and iron production in Brazil.  

In fact, the value of charcoal production in Africa was estimated at more than $8 billion in 2007, creating livelihoods for about seven million women and men, and catering to a rapidly growing urban demand. From this standpoint, wood energy makes up an enterprise of industrial scale. 

So, instead of disregarding wood energy as outdated, we must think of the economic, social and environmental benefits that would derive from modernizing its use. After all, wood energy is still one of the most widespread renewable fuels at our disposal. We already have the technological know-how to enhance the sustainability of wood energy value chains. Across the European Union’s 28 member states, wood and solid biofuels produced through “modern” methods accounted for nearly half of total primary energy from renewables in 2012.

Are we prepared for the next global epidemic? The public doesn't think so

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español | 日本語
A nurse checks the temperature of a patient at Redemption Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia.  © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


Too often, the conventional wisdom in diplomatic or scientific circles is that the general public doesn't know what's good for them when it comes to foreign policy or tackling global threats. It's too complicated, the experts say; the public wouldn't understand. Yet new polling suggests that many in the public understand very well how global infectious disease outbreaks pose a serious threat to their lives and economic security - and they know what should be done about it.

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