Ensuring access to quality reproductive health and family planning services is fundamental to human development results and is a top priority in the Bank’s 2007 Healthy Development strategy.
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Many studies show that education is one of the keys to escape the poverty trap. So, how can we ensure to give all children the chance to reap the benefits of a good education? There are numerous facet... Show More +s in answering this question, but one of the important ones is to provide them with Early Childhood Education.Why? Because early childhood is a time of remarkable brain growth. The years between birth and six lay the foundation for subsequent learning and development. Early Childhood Education, among other things, enhances school readiness, improves children’s’ cognitive and general skills, increases school enrolment and lowers repetition and drop-out rates.Experts have calculated that investing in children’s pre-school education gives you extremely high results for the money (what experts call “return on investment”). Let me just give you a few examples which show some of the results of the concept.In Bangladesh children who received center-based pre-school education outperformed their peers by 58 percent on standardized test. In Columbia children who received a comprehensive community-based Early Childhood Development (ECD) intervention were 100% more likely to be enrolled in third grade, indicating lower dropout and repetition rates for program children. In Argentina one year of preschool was estimated to increase the average third-grade test score in mathematics and Spanish by 8%. And in Jamaica high-quality ECD interventions improved children’s cognitive development, and boosted the earnings of those with developmental delays by 25%.So, where is Serbia? Well, the picture is bleak. In 2007, Serbia and Albania had a similar percentage of children enrolled in pre-school education – around 50 % of all children. Montenegro at the time was at a very low, close to 30 percent. In 2012, some 70 percent of children in Albania were enrolled in pre-school education, while in Montenegro 60 percent of them went to pre-school. Romania and Bulgaria the situation is even better (around 80 and 85 percent respectively). At the same time, in Serbia less than 60 percent of kids went to pre-school. Particularly dire is the situation among the Roma children: only five percent of Roma boys and seven percent of Roma girls living in informal settlements attend some kind of pre-school. And if you come from a poor family you are ten times less likely to go to pre-school than children who were born in rich families. Having in mind what I said earlier, this means that children in Serbia, Roma kids and children coming from poor families have less chances of learning more and better than children in other countries, children from other ethnic groups and kids born in wealthy families.All this can be changed. The World Bank finances more than 70 projects focused on Early Childhood Development around the world (of which Early Childhood Education is part). We have the skills, the knowledge and we can support countries in ECD reforms. And there are many partners and stakeholders doing excellent work in this area such as the Novak Djokovic Foundation, UNICEF, and the Open Society Fund. There are many educators and practitioners in Serbia ready to make a change. So let’s join forces and make sure that all children in Serbia have the tools at hand to escape the poverty trap and contribute to society. Show Less -
India’s high malnutrition burden is a cause of concern at the highest levels. The country’s malnutrition rates are two to seven times higher than those in other BRICS nations, and the rate of decline ... Show More +has been far from satisfactory. The good news is that there appears to be a serious commitment and urgency to address this long-standing challenge: a national nutrition mission is being prepared and several states have initiated nutrition missions.It is therefore timely to look at the full set of factors that determine nutrition to ensure that the measures we now undertake address them comprehensively so that they have the much-needed impact.Child undernutrition is measured using three different indicators — stunting (too short for age), underweight (too little weighat for age), and wasting (too thin for height). Each indicator reflects a different facet of undernutrition: stunting reflects chronic undernutrition, underweight reflects a combination of chronic and immediate undernutrition, and wasting reflects acute undernutrition.Most often, undernutrition sets in during the first thousand days of a child’s life — from conception to two years of age. If appropriate interventions are not undertaken during this critical window of opportunity, the long-term consequences are substantial.Stunting in early life causes irreversible damage that has lifelong consequences for the child, the family and the country. It not only leads to shorter height in adulthood but also impairs brain and cognitive development, leading to poorer school performance and reduced earning potential in later life. It is estimated that stunting leads to a 4.6 cm loss of height in adolescence, a 7-month delay in schooling and 0.7 grades loss, about 10 per cent reduction in lifetime earnings, and a 2-3 loss of GDP.Stunting also increases the risk of developing chronic diseases in adulthood such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, reducing productivity and increasing the costs of health care. These nibble into the quality of India’s human resources and compromise the country’s efforts to boost economic growth.Since childhood stunting is one of the best predictors of future human capital, it is imperative to measure and track it, and institute measures with the potential to dramatically reduce it, if the country and its people are to realise their full economic and human potential.Contrary to the popular notion that Indian children are shorter than their counterparts elsewhere due to their genetic make-up, there is strong evidence that while genetics plays a small role, all children have the potential to grow along a similar trajectory if they are fed as recommended, given appropriate care and a hygienic environment to live in, and receive timely health care to prevent and treat infections.New analysis shows that Indian children in the critical age group of six months to two years who received feeding, health care and improved water and sanitation in adequate measure have drastically lower rates of stunting than those who received none of these adequately (23 per cent versus 52 per cent). This association is robust and holds true across both rural and urban areas and across wealth quintiles,as well asin states with poor nutrition outcomesand in districts with the poorest human development indicators.Sadly, less than two per cent of India’s children in the critical age group have all three determinants in sufficient measure, and an unacceptably large proportion of them (63 per cent) get none of them to the recommended degree. Surprisingly, even amongst the wealthiest Indians, only about seven per cent of children receive all three categories of determinants adequately.Clearly, stunting is not a problem of the poor alone. Undernutrition pervades all strata of society. Even children from middle and upper income households display stunting levels that are quite significant — about 50 and 25 per cent respectively.Therefore to make a dent on undernutrition, it is critical to ensure thathouseholds and mothersacross the country adopt appropriate child feeding practices, mothers and young children get the necessary health care they need, and all have access to safe water and sanitation.Quick and significant wins for middle and upper income populations, where access to the three determinants is not a key constraint, could be achieved through effective and sustained information campaigns that provide much needed information. To support the needs of poorer households, however, larger and more intensive efforts will be needed.These segments of the population will need the full set of interventions that begin with mothers before birth and continue through the first two years of a child’s life. Measures that ensure health and good nutrition for mothers — such as delaying the age of marriage and child birth and providing pregnant women with adequate antenatal care and dietary intake, including iron supplementation, will need to be complemented with the full set of interventions for the child. These include breastfeeding, appropriate complementary feeding practices, and the provision of micronutrients, together with timely immunisation, treatment of infections and appropriate feeding during illnesses,as well as access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene.In sum, isolated interventions will be inadequate to address a challenge of this magnitude. Fortunately, programmes to address all the critical determinants of nutrition exist and are being strengthened: the Integrated Child Development Services scheme has been restructured; a National Nutrition Mission is being developed. The National Health Mission, which seeks to deliver the full set of health interventions to pregnant women and children, is up and running; and the Swacchh Bharat Mission that seeks to make habitations ‘open defecation free’ and provide safe drinking water is underway. The synergies between these programmes must now be fully exploited.The potential to reduce stunting substantially in a few years’ time has been demonstrated. Besides countries such as Peru, Rwanda, and Nepal, India’s own state of Maharashtra stands out in this regard. Maharashtra achieved a reduction in stunting in children under two years of age from 39 per cent in 2005-06 to 23 per cent in 2012.India must now seize the opportunity nationally and ensure that every child receives its birthright — the opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life that enables each to attain her full potential. Show Less -
Some actions and programs can help lift more people out of poverty: Improving access to and upgrading the quality of basic rural infrastructure, such as roads, irrigation schemes, electricity supplies... Show More + and water and sanitation. After all, 90 per cent of the poor live in rural areas. Supporting children in rural areas to start school at a younger age and broadening access to education among minority communities is key to reducing poverty. Scholarship, school feeding, targeted cash transfer and similar programs have been shown to help reduce drop-out rates later in secondary schools. An integrated program to reduce child malnutrition, with systematic monitoring of child growth by health facilities, will be a priority in reducing poverty. Community-based programs can reduce open defecation and improve feeding habits, food fortification and micronutrients. An increase in the coverage of the Health Equity Fund – a scheme that provides free health access to the poorest –and broadened outreach to spread awareness of the health benefits of the fund can also contribute to reducing child malnutrition.Tighter controls imposed on private providers and suppliers of medicine outside the public health system to combat counterfeit drugs can help improve health care quality.Programs to enhance the profitability of rice production through supply of improved seeds and more effective rural extension services can help farmers shift from subsistence to commercial farming. There are also policies and programs that help prevent the near-poor from slipping back into poverty. Promoting crop diversification beyond rice will be important. Rural families will also benefit from more opportunities for off-farm jobs and from increased efforts to promote industries and service sectors in both urban and rural areas.Further efforts to implement a National Social Protection Strategy could especially support the non-poor.Continued progress in poverty reduction is possible. Helping families who just escaped poverty stay out of poverty is possible. With strong policies and programs to reduce poverty, both goals are within reach. Indeed, such policies and programs are vital if the new hope and expectations of Cambodians that have been encouraged by the past decade of rapid economic growth are to be met. The government of Cambodia and the World Bank Group are jointly organising a workshop to disseminate a poverty assessment report in the afternoon of February 20, 2014, at Phnom Penh Hotel, which will provide an opportunity to discuss challenges and actions to reduce poverty further. Show Less -
What do France and Sweden have in common ? They are among the few European countries which are not experiencing a dramatic decline in birth rates – in large part thanks to effective public polici... Show More +es. In Poland women have an average of 1.4 children during their life. The numbers are almost identical in Italy, Spain, Germany. They are even lower in some East Asian countries, 1.2 in Korea, 1.15 in Singapore. Despite such difference experiences in other countries France and Sweden have managed to maintain the birth rates around what is needed to replace generations. So, what are these two countries doing ? What do their policies have in common ?Not only experienceActually – not that much. The two systems differ in almost every respect. They are based on different philosophies, they are aimed at different objectives, and they include different measures.The decision to have a child is probably one of the most important a couple, and a woman, can make. It is a decision that is influenced by a multiplicity of factors as we know from our own experience. It is hence no surprise that research cannot identify any single measure that has a substantial impact on birth rates. Each measure has its rationale and its usefulness – for example well-targeted family benefits can help reduce the number of children who grow in poverty – but in and by itself it does not raise the birth rates. What works is a combination of measures.In today’s world, women often feel they may have to choose between a fulfilling professional and social life and a successful family life. When they have to make such a choice, at least some of them will decide not to have children. Interestingly countries that have tried to support traditional family models have been unsuccessful at raising birth rates, probably because they made the need for a choice between motherhood and “modernity” even starker. What successful countries have done is to make it possible for women to have both: a fulfilling professional and social life and a successful family life.The way this is done reflects each country’s culture. The current French family policy is the result of a compromise between the objectives of raising fertility, providing income support to families, and promoting the work-family balance. Swedish family policies are not directly aimed at encouraging childbirth: their main goal has rather been to support women’s participation in the labor force and to promote gender equality. Yet, both sets of measures work. They work because they respond to the actual issues families, and especially women, are facing in a given cultural context. They also work because they are accompanied by policies aimed at supporting broader and complementary social changes, for example a greater focus on gender equity. There is no magic bullet. And there is no “global good practice” that Poland could adopt and replicate. What has worked is to find ways in each culture, in each society, to make it possible for women, not to have to choose between job and family. What has worked is to engage with women, and with their husbands or partners, to discuss what they need so they can have both. Show Less -