Sydney, August 15, 2012 - The World Bank today launched a new report aimed at improving health and education outcomes for the nine million citizens of the Pacific region.
Region-wide health remains a critical challenge, with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart failure and cancer now accounting for three out of every four deaths in the region, combined with an unfinished agenda on infectious disease and maternal and child health. A million school-aged children around the Pacific do not go to school at all and around 40 percent do not complete even basic primary education.
Improving health and education services is a priority for governments and donors across the region. A new World Bank report, “In Sweet Harmony? A Review of Health and Education Sectorwide Approaches (SWAps) in the South Pacific” suggests that development aid to national health and education programs has tended to be short term and fragmented, creating inefficiencies and calling for greater coordination between donors and governments.
Sectorwide Approaches (SWAps) aim to align resources under one common program in support of national priorities. The report suggests that this approach – which focuses on results, shared funds and the use of existing systems and capacity -- has the potential to boost efficiency and deliver better health and education services to more people.
Experience to date points to specific ways of meeting this potential, through: an even stronger focus on results; intensified efforts to strengthen and use national systems and capacities; and improvements in donor systems to better meet the needs and demands of countries in the Pacific.
“Given the vast challenges in health and education, it’s important to ensure that every dollar spent counts,” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and the Pacific Islands. “We all know that health and education are absolutely critical priorities for the region and we look forward to working closely with governments and donor partners to improve management and impact of these services.”
The report indicates that, while obstacles remain, there is room for optimism. In Vanuatu, improvements have occurred in education through SWAps and in Solomon Islands, progress has been made towards greater harmonization of development assistance in the health sector.
The report is currently being discussed widely with Pacific Island governments, donors, and other people and groups working in health and education.