The Ebola outbreak in West Africa started with just one case. More than nine months later, it’s now outrunning the ability of fragile countries and relief organizations in the three most-affected countries to contain it. Clinics and hospitals are overloaded. Sick people are being turned away. Things could get much worse unless something changes.
Hardly a week goes by without my hearing the statement, “It’s not the What; it’s the How.” On the reform of energy subsidies in the Middle East and North Africa, for instance, the discussion is focused not on whether subsidies should be reformed (everyone agrees they should be), but on how the reform should be carried out. Similar points are made about business regulations,education, agriculture, or health. I confess to having written similar things myself. And there is no shortage of such proposals on this blog.
Reforms are needed because there is a policy or institutional arrangement in place that has become counterproductive. But before suggesting how to reform it, we should ask why that policy exists at all, why it has persisted for so long, and why it hasn’t been reformed until now. For these policies didn’t come about by accident. Nor have they remained because somebody forgot to change them. And they are unlikely to be reformed just because a policymaker happens to read a book, article or blog post entitled “How to reform…”
On Sept. 1, leading football stars from multiple faiths will come together to play in a watershed Interreligious Match for Peace, supported by Connect4Climate of the World Bank Group.
At its best, sport possesses the power to bring out the best of the human spirit, particularly in moments when athletes display remarkable teamwork and sportsmanship. By affirming shared aspirations, religion and sport share the profound capacity to bring people together across the boundaries of race, nationality, income, and more.
In September 2000, world leaders committed to the Millennium Development Goals.
Until then, few dared to imagine goals such as eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, universalizing access to education or reducing maternal mortality would be possible. Now, with 500 days left before the end of 2015, the MDGs are less a leap of imagination and more of a challenge that many leaders feel is within reach.
For only the third time in its 66-year history, the World Health Organization has declared a global public health emergency. This time it is for the Ebola outbreak in the three West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. After their traumatic ordeal in recent months, governments and communities in those three countries are looking desperately for signs that Ebola can be stopped in its tracks.
As medical doctors who understand well both the continent of Africa and infectious disease control, we are confident that the Ebola virus disease response plan, led both by the countries and the World Health Organization, can contain this Ebola outbreak and, in a matter of months, extinguish it. Let's also keep in mind that this is not an African problem, but a humanitarian one that happens to occur in a small part of Africa.
Food Safety is becoming a priority in Zambia. The government is revising its food safety strategy and preparing new legislation to improve and modernize food safety governance. In the private sector, a number of food enterprises are upgrading their food safety practices to stay on par with their peers abroad and cater to increasingly demanding consumers.
These improvements are timely and appropriate. While the extent of foodborne risks in Zambia isn’t fully known, recurrent cholera and typhoid outbreaks as well as the fact that 60 percent of the population suffers from diarrhea suggest that foodborne pathogens, poor hygiene and sanitation and other food safety risks are having a negative impact. Anecdotal information supports this point. In conversations with partners in Zambia, over a cup of coffee or dinner, I asked what they thought could cause diarrhea? Most of them responded that it was probably something they ate. They complained that while diarrhea was not a “big deal,” and that “their stomachs were used to bacteria,” it reduced productivity because they had to take sick days away from work. Aside from causing a high death rate among children and the elderly, these diseases place a significant burden on straining public health services, reduce the productivity of the working population and constrain development. Furthermore, the economic and human costs of these diseases are huge.
Rift Valley Fever, which can infect both humans and animals, has long plagued East Africa. And climate change, in combination with urbanization, population growth, and travel, can increase conditions that are favorable for this disease and many others.
Temperature, humidity, and rainfall will be affected by climate change –and each can influence the way that disease develops and spreads. Mosquitoes, for example, thrive in warm, humid climates. As climate change alters the geography of these conditions, the number and range of mosquitoes will also change, spreading the diseases that they carry, and exposing populations that have never before seen them. But this is not just true for mosquitoes – ticks, midges, and other vectors that carry disease also stand to have greater impact with climate change. The impact will be felt—with increasing intensity– by both humans and animals. Of the nearly 340 diseases that have been identified in humans since 1940, ¾ are zoonotic, passing directly from animal species to humans.
China’s high economic growth during the last three decades is well known. But less attention has been paid to the dividends of that growth and the country’s rapid urbanization: China has lifted half a billion people out of poverty in the last 30 years – an historic feat.
But the country’s leadership knows that many challenges remain – some coming as a result of the rapid growth. For 30 years, the World Bank Group has had a strong partnership with the government and we’ve recently completed two landmark joint studies: China 2030 (guided by the leadership of my predecessor, Robert Zoellick), and the Urban China report, released just a few months ago.
When I turned 22, I was struggling a bit. I was just two months into my first year at Harvard Medical School, and I had gone from an undergraduate environment at Brown University where I was an activist with a diverse group of peers to a situation where I was memorizing anatomy out of a textbook each and every night. It seemed a real letdown.
Over the next months and years, I met fellow activists including Paul Farmer, with whom I co-founded Partners In Health, and that opened up new possibilities. A few years later, I entered a PhD program in anthropology. Both connected the lessons from medical school to real passions of mine.
When I was 22, one thing naturally led to another. Even so, I wish I knew then what I understand better now about preparing myself for the future. I have three suggestions that I wish someone had told me when I was younger.
It seems that everyone is talking about inequality these days, and I, for one, am happy to see this issue at the forefront in the development discussion.
We can look at inequality in a number of ways, which are not unrelated. One of the most visible types of inequality on the radar is inequality of outcomes — things like differences in academic achievements, career progression, earnings, etc. — which, in and of themselves, are not necessarily bad. Rewarding an individual’s effort, innate talents and superior life choices can provide incentives for innovation and entrepreneurship, and can help drive growth.
However, not all inequalities are “good.” When inequality perpetuates itself because those born poor consistently do not have access to the same opportunities as those born rich, what emerges is a deep structural inequality that is bad for poverty reduction, bad for economic growth, and bad for social cohesion. How pervasive are these deep inequalities? Much more than we would like. Indeed, when we examine what is happening in many countries around the world today, we find large and persistent, even growing, gaps in earnings between rich and poor. And we find that those who start out in poverty or are part of a disadvantaged group tend to remain there, with little opportunity to work their way out.
How do we explain this, and what can we do to tackle it? We need to take a step back and look at where this inequality originates, and that is where the concept of equality of opportunity comes in to play. This concept broadly refers to access to a basic set of services that are necessary, at the minimum, for a child to attain his or her human potential, regardless of the circumstances — such as gender, geographic region, ethnicity, and family background — into which he or she is born. Too often, access to such basic services like electricity, clean water, sanitation, health care and education is much lower among children born into circumstances that place them at a disadvantage. Children from disadvantaged groups thus set off on an unequal path from day one, which curbs their opportunities and potential into adulthood.