The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) crisis ended more than a year ago in Liberia. It resulted in over 10,000 cases and 5,000 deaths. For many children, the crisis continues through intrusive memories of illness, isolation, and death. These memories are particularly acute for the children directly affected by Ebola; those that were quarantined, separated from family during treatment, or orphaned. The Liberia Ministry of Health (MOH) identified 3,091 such children, and a World Bank working paper calculated that approximately 4,200 Liberian children lost one or both parents to Ebola.
Some say natural resources are a curse, others say they are neither curse nor destiny (see here and here for examples). The jury may still be deliberating on the evidence but, in the meantime, resource-rich, income poor countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone and others need to find their way forward. They have to be responsive to the enormous needs of their populations or face dire consequences.
For post-conflict countries, the policy learning curve must of necessity be steep, since they neither have the luxury of time nor the expanse of fiscal space to benefit from learning by doing over the longer-term. A primary challenge for policy makers in these countries is to identify a “a fail-safe” model that can, with few degrees of freedom on the political, social, and economic dimensions, deliver sustained, inclusive growth and poverty reduction at levels that will appease a youthful, impatient population.
It is estimated that more than 250 million school children throughout the world cannot read. This is unfortunate because literacy has enormous benefits – both for the individual and society. Higher literacy rates are associated with healthier populations, less crime, greater economic growth, and higher employment rates. For a person, literacy is a foundational skill required to acquire advanced skills. These, in turn, confer higher wages and more employment across labor markets .
Over the last decade, both Kenya and Liberia have sought to scale up successful pilot programs that help children to learn to read. Even as more and more impact evaluations are of programs at scale, pilots still constitute a significant portion of what we test. That’s with good reason: Governments wisely seek to pilot and test programs before expending valuable resources in implementing a program across the country. Last year, I wrote about how the Indian organization Pratham worked with J-PAL to test effective programs to improve reading iteratively, varying different parameters in terms of who was implementing (government teachers versus volunteers) and when (in-school versus during the holidays).
Leah is a diligent 13-year-old student in rural Liberia. She walks to the school near her village every day. She pays attention in class. She hopes to be a teacher one day. Yet, there is a problem. Leah is still in first grade.
In March 2014, Liberia announced that there were two suspected cases of Ebola in Lofa and Nimba counties. Six months later, Ebola had spread to 14 of the 15 counties of the country and a state of emergency had been declared. By the time the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Liberia was officially ‘Ebola free’ in May 2015, more than 10,000 Liberians had contracted the virus and the economic fortunes of the post conflict nation had faced a significant downturn.
See if you can spot the pattern:
- “Although the quantity of schooling has expanded rapidly, quality is often abysmal.” (Kremer et al.)
- “Between 1999 and 2009, an extra 52 million children enrolled in primary school…Yet the quality of education in many schools is unacceptably poor.” (Krishnaratne et al.)
- “Progress over the last decade in regards to school access and enrollment has been promising.” But “current learning levels for primary as well as secondary school students are extremely low in much of Sub-Saharan Africa” (Conn)
- “The most consistent focus of investment has been on increasing primary and secondary school enrollment rates… More recently, however, attention has begun to swing toward the quality of schools and the achievement of students—and here the evidence on outcomes is decidedly more mixed.” (Glewwe et al.)
- “Over the past decade, low- and middle-income countries have made considerable progress in increasing the number of children and youth who enroll in school and stay long enough to learn basic skills… Learning in many low- and middle-income countries remains appallingly low.” (Murnane & Ganimian)
Again and again, we hear the refrain: access is improving, but learning lags. Thankfully, an increasing number of studies reveal interventions that work – and those that don’t – to improve learning around the world.
There are many stories about why children fail to enter, attend, or complete schooling, in places like Liberia. As a researcher with the Africa Gender Innovation Lab, I had the opportunity to examine this issue through an impact evaluation of the International Rescue Committee’s Sisters of Success (SOS) program, in Monrovia Liberia.
Our recently released baseline report depicts a different reality than many would expect. Data and findings come from households in Monrovia, Liberia, with 12-15 year old girls who registered for the SOS program. The extent to which our study results can reasonably represent the results one would expect for other girls in Greater Monrovia depends on how similar girls and households in the study sample are to a representative sample of Greater
Monrovia. Analysis, which can be found in the full report, suggests that they are in fact quite similar.
For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030: good governance, gender equality, conflict and fragility, creating jobs, and, finally, preventing and adapting to climate change.
By 2030, more than half of the world’s poorest people will live in very poor countries that are fragile, affected by conflict, or experience high levels of violence
These are places where governments cannot adequately provide even basic services and security, where economic activity is paralyzed and where development is the most difficult. It is also where poverty is deepest. The problems these countries face don’t respect borders. About half of the world’s 20 million refugees are from poor countries. Many more are displaced within their own country.
- international development association
- food crisis
- Horn of Africa
- forced displacement
- Sustainable Communities
- Great Lakes
- shocks and vulnerabilities
- justice and development
- Jobs and Development
- jobs and poverty
- food security
- community-driven development
- Social Development
- The World Region
- Syrian Arab Republic
- Cote d'Ivoire
- Congo, Democratic Republic of
- Central African Republic