Growing up in a developing country, I remember having some naive but clever solutions to the inequalities in and around my life. I had barely settled into my new teenage shoes, but I was already making indignant inquiries from my parents: “Why can’t we just fix everything for everyone?”
Ten years later — now blessed with a quality education and some work experience — those ideas today are likely less naive (and, I would hope, a little more clever).
But where should I be vocalizing such ideas? The answer: In boardrooms, government buildings and high-level policy meetings. That is according to a group of global leaders who met at the World Bank Spring Meetings in April.
When I met Esther Nyambe, she was dressed in a vibrant swirl of brown, green and violet and was pedaling a water pump. Nyambe heads a community organization in Mbeta Island, where women are taking the lead to improve access to safe water and diversify their income through climate-smart farming.
Mbeta Island is surrounded by the Zambezi River and faces increasingly unpredictable floods. Climate change is a reality in this landlocked country where more than half of the population lives in poverty. The island has seen floods that can turn communities into swamps.
I was in Vietnam last month and I was so impressed by the tremendous progress the country has made compared to what I had seen 17 years earlier.
In 2000, the Nhieu Loc–Thi Nghe canal in Ho Chi Minh City’s central business district was so polluted that it posed a health risk to everyone living and working there. How times have changed. The canal’s water is now clear, contributing to a greener and healthier urban living for 1.2 million people in the rapidly expanding metropolis.
Social safety nets – predictable cash grants to poor households often in exchange for children going to school or going for regular health check-ups – have become one of the most effective poverty reduction strategies, helping the poor and vulnerable cope with crises and shocks. Each year, safety net programs in developing countries lift an estimated 69 million people living in absolute poverty and uplifting some 97 million people from the bottom 20 percent – a substantial contribution in the global fight against poverty.
The World Bank embraces innovation in many forms, including the use of Virtual Reality (VR) and 360° images to create immersive experiences that help build empathy and awareness of critical topics that affect people living in poverty.
VR is impacting the way the World Bank communicates, visualizes projects, and improves decision making to further the Bank’s goals.
- Virtual Reality
The recent UN declaration of famine in parts of South Sudan, the world's first famine since 2011, raised global alarm that at least 100,000 people are at immediate risk of starvation.
Adding to the troubling news, the U.N. estimates that about 20 million people are at a "tipping point," as famine stalks not only South Sudan, but Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen. Crises like these, affecting some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable populations, require the urgent attention of global development agencies and their partners to meet both short- and long-term development needs.
Globally 2.9 million people died from household air pollution in 2015, caused by cooking over foul, smoky fires from solid fuels such as wood, charcoal, coal, animal dung, and agricultural crop residues. Well over 99% of these deaths were in developing countries, making household air pollution one of their leading health risk factors.
Many women across the world spend their days and evenings cooking with these fuels. They know the fumes are sickening, which is why some cook in a separate outhouse or send the children to play while they cook. Sadly, these small actions cannot fully protect the young. As for the women themselves, they suffer incredible morbidity and mortality from household air pollution.
When women do well, everyone benefits. Giving women access to better jobs and financial security are keys to ending poverty. Gender gaps harm the entire economy. We know that when women control the finances, they tend to spend money on the things that matter most – essential food and water, school fees and health care for the family. It’s amazing what small changes can do – a mobile money account opens up the ability to get small loans, buy insurance, and make payments. The World Bank is working to empower women around the world, supporting women entrepreneurs in Pakistan and supporting women and their families with cash cards in Lebanon.
Along the beach in Mondouku, Côte d'Ivoire, a group of fishermen have just returned with their catch. Many of them come from neighboring Ghana, and they tell us that they come to the Ivorian part of the coast because there are more fish here. Still, they explain that the fish are smaller in size and number compared to previous years. The beach they are sitting on is lined with small hotels and cabanas destroyed in a storm surges over the past few years. A bit further down the coast, near the Vridi Canal, we speak with Conde Abdoulaye, who runs the lobster restaurant that his father ran before him. Even at low tide, the water laps against the steps of the restaurant and a retaining wall which he has rebuilt numerous times. He says he knows it is inevitable that at some point the sea will swallow his restaurant, and he will have to leave. He blames the canal for most of the beach erosion, but also acknowledges that changing weather patterns and increasing storms have contributed to the damage.
Worldbank.org just got a pretty significant makeover. The design is more modern – with less clutter and better use of visuals (images, video, graphics). The navigation is more streamlined and, we hope, more intuitive for you. We know thousands of you rely on our website for research, data and knowledge to help you solve some of the world’s most challenging problems in your own line of work. You use it to connect with experts and learn about projects around the world. You use it to find a job. You use it to hold us accountable.