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September 2018

How can Sri Lanka better protect its people against disasters?

Thomas Walker's picture
A recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050
A recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050

Sri Lanka has a long history of coping with weather impacts.  

About two thousand years ago, the country built one of the world’s first irrigation system to control its water supply.

This feat of engineering, which boasted hundreds of kilometers of channels, tanks, and innovative valve pits, helped the great kingdoms of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa flourish into sophisticated societies and protect their people against hunger.

Not unlike these early civilizations, modern social protection programs have sheltered those affected by disaster through financial assistance and other forms of support.

Today, building resilience to natural disasters and other shocks is more critical than ever.

Since 1980, the frequency of natural disasters worldwide has increased by 250 percent, and the number of affected people has more than doubled.

Sri Lanka is no exception. The country ranked fourth most vulnerable to climate change in 2016.

Further to that, a recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050.

The losses caused by significant shocks like natural disasters have long-lasting consequences.

Children, especially, can suffer permanent damages if they are not educated or fed correctly in their critical early years.  

And the loss of assets, livestock, and crops can severely hurt small business owners and farmers and further discourage them from investing.

Sadly, natural disasters hit the poor the hardest as they tend to live in disaster-prone areas, work in agriculture, and usually don’t have savings or access to credit.

When a shock hits, wellbeing declines as people cut back on food and other essentials due to their loss of income or the high cost of rebuilding their homes.

And while some people gradually restore their standards of living, some never fully recover and get stuck in poverty.

But the poor aren’t the only ones who need to worry about shocks.

Today, a third of Sri Lankans are just a shock away from falling into poverty.

Our analysis of the 2016 Household Income and Expenditure Survey reveals that a 20 percent sudden decrease in household welfare—or consumption shock—would more than double the poverty rate: almost 1 in 10 Sri Lankans would be poor.

If the shock triggered a 50 percent decrease in consumption, one in three Sri Lankan families would fall into poverty.

What it’s like being a female student in Afghanistan today

Nathalie Lahire's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
Nathalie Lahire attends a class along with students in Abul-Qasim Ferdowsi Girls High School in Kabul
Nathalie Lahire attends a class along with students in Abul-Qasim Ferdowsi Girls High School in Kabul. Photo Credit: World Bank

Afghanistan offers diverse opportunities and challenges for girls depending on where they live and the attitudes toward girls’ education in their community.
 
Further to that, rural or urban infrastructure, the commitment levels of teachers, and the nature or extent of corruption in the community can affect how a female student will perform in school.
 
In general, the past many years of conflict and political unrest in Afghanistan have damaged the country’s education system; eroding the quality of staffing and curriculum.
 
The education sector has been at the forefront of political conflicts and caught in between competing interest groups.
 
As a result, the unfavorable political economy has blocked policy reforms and their implementation, taking a toll on the quality of education services.
 
This has led to weakened governance.
 
Still, enrollment in school districts in Afghanistan is at surprising levels.

Connecting communities through India and Bangladesh's cross-border markets

Nikita Singla's picture


In remote border regions in Bangladesh and India, a government-to-government initiative is changing cross border relations, shifting the focus from smuggling and skirmishes to mutual economic gains and building a coalition for peace and cooperation.

In 2011, Bangladesh and India flagged off the first of their border haats, representing an attempt to recapture once thriving economic and cultural relationships that had been truncated by the creation of national borders.
Border Haats are local markets along the Indo-Bangladesh border that stretches 4100 Kms and runs through densely populated regions.

Conceived as Confidence Building Measures between India and Bangladesh, 4 Border Haats were set up between 2011 and 2015.
  • Balat (Meghalaya) – Sunamgunj (Sylhet)
  • Kalaichar (Meghalaya) – Kurigram (Rangpur)
  • Srinagar (Tripura) – Chagalnaiya (Chittagong)
  • Kamalasagar (Tripura) – Kasba (Chittagong)

Initially only local produce was permitted for trade. But subsequently, the range of items has been broadened to include goods of household consumption.
 

Bringing the People of Bangladesh and India Together Through Border Markets
Overall, border Haats have been strongly welcomed by participants. The positive experience of border haats has prompted both the governments to flag-off six more Border Haats: two in Tripura and four in Meghalaya. More Haats mean more trade, more people to people connect and more trust, one leading to another. This will go a long way in linking marginalized border communities to more mainstreamed trade and development.  


But border haats are not only about trade.

Clean and Green Bangladesh: A goal that can be achieved

Karin Erika Kemper's picture
 

"Think before you do, not after you're done,” says a Bengali proverb that applies to an urgent threat today for Bangladesh—major environmental problems spawned by rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. A decade of strong economic growth helped Bangladesh reach lower middle-income status while sharply decreasing its poverty rate, a remarkable achievement. But like many countries in the world, such progress has come at considerable environmental cost.

According to our just released report, "Country Environmental Analysis", Bangladesh is among the countries most affected by pollution and other environmental health risks. The monetary cost to the Bangladeshi society of environmental degradation in urban areas, measured in terms of foregone labour output was equivalent to about one percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually.  If one takes into account the broader welfare impacts of mortality attributed to environmental risks, the economic cost is equivalent to 3.4 percent of the national GDP. Noncompliant industries and inadequate waste management of hazardous and nonhazardous materials are polluting the cities' air as well as surface and ground water. The study also indicated that many rivers around Dhaka are polluted.

Addressing gender-based violence in Nepal

Zainiddin Karaev's picture
 David Waldorf
Nepal has a high incidence of gender-based violence and women remain — by large — the main victims. Credit: David Waldorf

Last month, I visited Nepal to understand the gravity of gender-based violence (GBV) and how victims can seek help and access confidential and quality support services.   
 
Nepal has a high incidence of gender-based violence. And while everyone, regardless of their sex, can be affected, women remain — by large — the main victims.   
 
In 2017, 149 people were killed as a result of GBV in Nepal. 
 
Of these victims, 140 were female, 75 of whom were killed because of domestic violence.  
 
In 2017, out of 680 documented cases, the main perpetrator was a family member or relative in 163 cases of them.  
 
However, such cases are generally unreported due to the stigma attached to GBV. 
 
In this bleak context, it was heartening to hear about an integrated platform that addresses GBV issues and has helped improve response and support to the victims.  
 
With assistance from the World Bank’s State and Peacebuilding Fund (SPF), the government of Nepal has set up a helpline and a network of service providers for GBV victims.
 
Since 2017, these programs have supported over 677 cases. 

Afghanistan makes better nutrition a priority

Michelle Mehta's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
Community based, preventative approaches to health care will improve stunting and wasting outcomes for Afghan children
Community based, preventative approaches to health care will improve stunting and wasting outcomes for Afghan children.  Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

Last year, Afghanistan became the 60th country to join Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), a global movement to end malnutrition, and thus signaled its strong commitment to invest in a better future for its citizens.

This engagement comes at a critical time as more than 40 percent of Afghan children are currently stunted—or of low height for their age.

Stunting in early life is a marker of poor child growth and development and will reduce their potential to contribute toward their country’s growth and prosperity.

On the other hand, a well-nourished child tends to complete more years of schooling, learns better, and earns higher wages in adulthood, thereby increasing the odds that he or she will escape a life of poverty.[1] 

As such, Afghanistan stands to gain enormous benefits by reducing stunting, which in turn can help boost its economic growth, productivity, and human capital development.

To help the Afghan government invest in better nutrition, the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), World Bank and UNICEF have partnered to determine what it would take to reach more children, women, and their families and provide them with essential nutrition services that would ultimately reduce stunting and anemia.

Are Pakistan’s urban professional women immune to sexual harassment?

Saman Amir's picture

Woman face harassment in all type of jobs, no matter where or who. One can’t say that she works in a big firm so she is safe… [but] she doesn’t know who will believe her if she reports harassment – she… fears that the others will say she is asking for it.  Thus, she doesn’t say anything.” -Young working woman in Quetta.

This statement was echoed by 93 educated women of all ages in the Pakistani cities of Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore, and Karachi.

In the era of the #MeToo Movement, focus group discussions with these women affirmed that sexual harassment continues to be a part of the experience of urban educated Pakistani women seeking jobs.
 
The good news is that there’s legislation to protect against harassment, the bad is that few know about it and fewer feel comfortable reporting harassment.

For employed women, sexual harassment disrupts careers and dampens professional potential; its fear can deter women from entering the labor force at all.

We explore this as part of a study on female labor force participation in Pakistan with the Center for Gender and Policy Studies and support from the Pakistan Gender Platform. 

The women we spoke with talked about experiencing sexual, physical, verbal, non-verbal or psychological harassment at the hands of supervisors, senior staff members and colleagues, as well as strangers in public transport and spaces.

They also highlighted cyberstalking, staring, phone numbers being leaked, lewd comments, stalking in public places and harassment on public transport as common occurrences, and that such harassment occurs regardless of a woman’s age or socio-economic status.

Announcing the winners of the 2018 #OneSouthAsia Photo Contest

World Bank South Asia's picture


Home to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, South Asia is one of the world’s most dynamic regions.

It's also one of the least integrated.

A few numbers say it all: Intra-regional trade accounts for only 5 percent of South Asia’s total trade; Intra-regional investment is smaller than 1 percent of overall investment.

Technology can help Afghanistan better manage its natural disasters

Julian Palma's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
 Rumi Consultancy / World Bank
Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

To associate a gun shot with foul play seems logical. But that’s not necessarily the case in Guldara, a district nearly 40 kilometers outside of Kabul City in Afghanistan.

Gun shots typically come from communities living at the top of the mountain to warn vulnerable downhill communities of potential flooding from the Guldara river. The Guldara river is both a blessing and a curse for the local communities.

Its water is the main source of livelihood since nearly 75 percent of the local economy depends on agriculture. It is also a threat to life and assets. In March 2017, when the mountain snow melted, heavy floods killed two children and washed away the only road that connects the city with Kabul.