- send their children to school, feed their families, make a good living - often with just a little help from well-targeted programs.
Stories like that of Kausar, from Hyderabad, India, who dropped out of school and got married at age 17. But she received skills training and found a job at a government hospital, providing bed-side care. Samina, a woman from Karachi, Pakistan, who built a micro-enterprise and employed 9 other women. Qamara, from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, who received a cow and a calf from an emergency support program, and can now sell milk to dairy shops and neighbors, keeping a lifeline throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
I remembered these stories when I read the numbers included in the just-released 2020 edition of the World Bank’s Human Capital Index.
Even before the pandemic, 1 out of 3 children in South Asia was still stunted, and 4 out of every 100 children did not live beyond the age of 5.
The numbers in the report represent dramatic improvements in lives and opportunities for millions of people in South Asia.In Bangladesh, a child can now expect to spend 10.2 years in school, which is 2 years more than in 2010.
But the report also reminds me that there is still so much work ahead to strengthen human development outcomes.While more children attend school than ever before, students in South Asia still do not learn more than in the average Sub-Saharan country. The report also shows what we don’t know, pointing to the need to strengthen the consistency and quality of data collection on human development, particularly in our region.
We know that the pandemic will worsen these outcomes and reverse some of the gains, even if the full impact is not yet measurable. Several countries in the region continue reporting high number of cases each day, and even countries that have fared relatively well like Bhutan and Sri Lanka will need to remain vigilant. And, while attention has focused on direct impacts such as hospitalizations and deaths, the indirect impacts are slowly becoming visible. These indirect impacts include unavailability of some key health services, income loss and hunger – all of which will have long term impacts. Students across South Asia have been deprived of 4 months of learning opportunities, which could lead to long-term economic losses of up to $801 billion.
One important lesson is that we need to keep a strong focus on inequality, which is perhaps the key driver of poor human capital. digital learning opportunities. During this day and age, reducing inequality includes addressing the digital divide.Reducing inequality means strengthening the quality of service delivery, closely tracking program impacts on the poor, and making sure that services work for people like Kausar, Samina and Qamara. Bangladesh increased its level of schooling by helping the poorest stay in school longer. Yet many are not able to access
To better protect people from shocks, we also need a whole of government approach that addresses the many risks faced by South Asia’s population – including from environmental factors. climate change: 800 million people are at risk of lower incomes and 40 million at risk of becoming climate refugees. Improving human lives will require us to think beyond sectoral silos.Environmental pollution - particularly . South Asia is also very vulnerable to
The World Bank has provided over $1.6 billion in emergency health operations and $4 billion in relief, recovery, and resilience operations across South Asia.
The numbers released today show that it is possible to improve the lives of millions of people, but we must do a lot more now to protect and invest in people’s lives and livelihoods.