Shun was key to our work in West Africa during the last Ebola crisis. The Bank committed almost $500 million in a fast, flexible, life-saving response.

“What is really the passion that you have? What kind of problem do you want to address?”

Shunsuke, Senior Health Specialist

I’m from Japan, Tokyo. 

I’m working for Africa region, especially with Africa, and currently working for Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia—so, the Ebola-affected countries. But I used to work for Nigeria and other West African countries, too. 

When the crisis happened, we sort of committed as an organization that it’s a—the most important, actually, activity for the World Bank because this is really a global crisis and the Bank can do a lot of things. So we sort of committed almost about US$500 million for the emergency response. And then financed Guinea and Liberia and Sierra Leone as fast as possible, as flexible as possible to adapt to the changing needs to get to zero Ebola case[s] and also rebuild the health systems as soon as possible. 

The hardest time I actually didn’t visit. It’s an interesting story. Like I get into this team leadership position right after, one week after, I got a new baby, like a first daughter. I’m just off the whole paternity leave and I came back and I got a call from my manager to take the lead on this important project. So I needed to sort of stay here and focus on managing these three country operations. So we have very strong country teams and also the health specialist going there to make sure that the health specialists represent and discuss with the government all the time. 

So I came in in January and then in March to discuss further support.

So I think the—if you think about the funding, it’s a large amount of funds. But when you compare that amount of funds with the need of the country or the budget that the country has, it’s not very large. And so what’s valuable is ... problem-solving capability to support the government. So with some small funds we can test very innovative ideas and that can sort of have a huge health impact. And, if we can prove it, in [a] very scientific way and convince the policymakers that this is a very good approach, we can scale it up with other funds and with country funds. And also, when we think about the multisectoral issues, we need to have someone who can sort of convene different kinds of stakeholders and different types of expertise within the Bank and also across the different institutions to really sit down together and solve the different problems together. And the Bank has some sort of creditably and convening capability to do that kind of problem-solving—that’s sort of a huge value-add for the Bank. 

The most important thing is to think about yourself. What is really the passion that you have? What kind of problem do you want to address? And how you want to address that issue? And to think whether the Bank is the best place to do so. If you are very much convinced by yourself about the problem to solve and also the approach to solve and that’s the best fit for the World Bank then the people will be convinced as well. But if you are not very sure, and then you just sort work with international agencies, for some reason, it’s not going to be very helpful. So clarifying your passion and also sort of the way you want to contribute to the problem, so to the World Bank it’s the most important thing. 

At the Bank, I think the opportunity is something you need to take or you need to create. It’s not something that is waiting for you, right? And if you are proactive enough to prove yourself and to create some opportunities by sort of speaking with the government or speaking with the staff to see something you think is valuable for the client. You can actually do it. So the level of flexibility and freedom is actually high but you need to be very proactive and you need to ... You need to create your opportunity by yourself.