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World Bank increases financing on health, education in poor countries amid economic crisis
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14:02, April 25, 2009

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The World Bank said here on Friday that it was mobilizing up to 3.1 billion U.S. dollars this year in health financing to help poor countries battle threats to their social services during the global economic crisis.

The amount triples the support from 1 billion U.S. dollars last year and will be used to strengthen health systems in poor countries, boost their performance in preventing and treating communicable diseases, and improving child and maternal health, hygiene and sanitation, the bank said.

The institution added it was also doubling its education financing this year in low- and middle-income countries to 4.09 billion U.S. dollars.

The new health and education numbers followed the announcement earlier this week that the bank's investments in social protection programs, including social safety nets, are expected to rise dramatically for 2009-2010 to 12 billion U.S. dollars.

"The global economic downturn has taken a wrecking ball to growth and development in the developing world, with children having to drop out of school and poor families eating cheaper, less nutritious food which can result in weight loss and severe malnutrition, especially for young children and pregnant women," said Joy Phumaphi, the World Bank's Vice President for Human Development.

Phumaphi, who is former health minister for Botswana, said that during the East Asia financial crisis in the late 1990s, a survey of public health facilities in Thailand reported a 22-percent increase in anemia amongst pregnant women as mothers switched to eating less nutritious foods; in Indonesia, micro-nutrient deficiencies (especially Vitamin A) in children and women (of reproductive age) increased during the crisis period, while the average weight fell for children under the age of three.

Evidence from previous crises in Argentina, Indonesia, Thailand, and Russia shows that governments were forced to cut health services as a result of shrinking budgets and that returning health spending to pre-crisis levels took up to 10-15 years to achieve.

People most vulnerable to falling sick and into extreme poverty as a result of the global economic crisis include those living with disabilities, "informal" workers who toil in the shadows of the mainstream job market and make up a large percentage of the workforce in developing countries, and poor women and children, especially mothers and girls.

"We cannot afford a 'lost' generation of people as a result of this crisis," Phumaphi said. "It is essential that developing countries and aid donors act now to protect and expand their spending on health, education and other basic social services and target these efforts to make sure they reach the poorest and most vulnerable groups."

Source: Xinhua

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