WASHINGTON, December 18, 2014—The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors today approved US$170.2 million for women and adolescent girls to expand their access to reproductive, child and maternal health services in five countries in Africa’s Sahel region and the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS).
The Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend Project will also help promote regional knowledge and data on proven gender development programs.
To end poverty across Africa and promote greater prosperity for families, we know that the answer involves improved access to health services for women and educating adolescent girls,” said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region. “Meeting these objectives is even more critical for countries in the Sahel, which have some of the world’s highest birth rates. Improving access to maternal and child health, and family planning services, will create more economic opportunities for women and girls in the region.”
Today’s approval comes one year after World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim visited the Sahel with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and pledged $1.5 billion for regional development priorities such as social safety nets to help families weather the worst effects of economic adversity and natural disasters, infrastructure development and creating increased economic opportunities for families living in rural areas.
Africa’s Sahel region suffers from multiple development challenges: too little economic growth and opportunity, a harsh climate, hunger, high fertility rates, and the world’s highest number of maternal and child deaths.
The Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend Project will work across the sub-region to improve the availability and affordability of reproductive health services, strengthen specialized training centers for rural-based midwives, improve nursing services, and pilot and share knowledge on adolescent girls’ initiatives.
“High fertility, rapid population growth and poor health services are preventing Sahelian countries from taking advantage of their demographic dividend which could bring greater prosperity. This project supports a much-needed multi-sectoral approach to women and girls’ empowerment and their access to health services. It will work across borders to help overcome barriers to empowering women and girls, and give them the tools to shape their own future,” said Christophe Lemière, Task Team Leader for the project.
Empowering women and girls means helping them to continue their education, improving their knowledge of Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health and Nutrition, and increasing the number of young women who participate in life-skills programs. Combined, these interventions can reduce fertility rates and child marriage, all factors that contribute to preventing women from prospering and formally contributing to economies, while also increasing demand for and access to family planning services.
Financed by IDA, the WBG’s fund for the poorest countries*, the new program will be closely coordinated with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and other development partners, and will strengthen the West African Health Organization (WAHO), the health arm of ECOWAS, a regional group of 15 West African countries promoting economic integration across the region.
From the WBG U$170.2-million program, Côte d’Ivoire will receive a US$20-million credit and US$10 million grant; Mali will receive a US$40-million credit; Niger will receive a US$53.5-million credit; Chad will receive a US$26.7-million grant; Mauritania will receive a US$15-million grant; and ECOWAS will receive a U$5-million grant.
* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 77 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 2.8 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 112 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $18 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent going to Africa.