Did you know that...
As it works to help alleviate poverty, the World Bank has 4.7 billion clients around the world. Today, of these 4.7 billion people:
• 1.3 billion live on less than $1 a day.
• 100 million go to bed hungry every night.
• More than a billion don't have clean water to drink.
• Hundreds of thousands of women die in childbirth-related deaths because of inadequate health and sanitation.
• Nearly 40 million children die every year of diseases for which there are known cures.
Dressed in white, the old man walks with dignity to a chair in the shade on a hot African afternoon. People gather around as he slowly begins to talk about the past. He remembers when blindness was common in the villages. "A lot of people became blind, before becoming old," he said. Some French doctors discovered that the cause was a small humpbacked blackfly that bred in the riverwater. This ancient scourge is called on-chocerciasis, or riverblindness.
But, the old man mused, he was lucky, because before he became blind a simple drug was discovered and provided to him - just one tablet a year for four years - and his blindness was averted. In addition, a larvicide is now being sprayed from helicopters to attack the blackfly at the larval stage. These two drugs have meant a stunning victory in a continent constantly demoralized by sad statistics about other diseases such as AIDS and malaria. For only around 50 cents per person, millions of people have been protected from riverblindness. The World Bank is one of the sponsors of this WHO-executed program.
The World Bank works in education, health, nutrition, population, and social protection in order to improve the lives of people in developing countries, especially the poor.
Weaving the Artisanal Cloth of Knowledge
"Weaving molas is an important part of my life," explained the young Panamanian woman about the colorful material with intricate animal or geometric designs she held in front of her, woven for shirts, dresses or decorations. "This is more than just a mola. It is part of women's development, of our economic well-being, and most importantly of Panamanian culture." Surrounded by her beautiful patterns and images, she was speaking at a training program run by PEOPLink, a program which trains women from remote villages to learn digital imagery and computer technology to sell their products on the internet cyberspace market. "PEOPLink helps us tell our story. It helps us compete on a world stage--we don't want to stay behind--we want the world to understand our culture and society. We want to educate and be educated." The Mola Cooperative she is part of earned $100,000 from sales last year. The artisans get back 60-70 percent of their profit, instead of the 10 percent they would get through retailers. The World Bank helps fund PEOPLink through the Information for Development Programme, infoDev, a Bank program designed to help people from developing economies take advantage of information and communication technologies.
The World Bank is committed to being a "Knowledge Bank", to serve as a first port of call when people need knowledge on development. The Bank's intent by the year 2000 is to have in place a global communications system with computer links, video-conferencing and interactive classrooms, affording its clients all around the world full access to its information bases. This is part of the Bank's larger commitment to encourage an active participation on all levels of decision-making, at all levels of government and civil society.
Living At Peace With the River
Three times in a decade, the mighty Rio Parana in Argentina sent its waters pouring over its banks, causing major flooding and loss. But to the 43,000 citizens of Gualeguay, cultural and environmental im-poverishment was too high a price to pay for increasing their protection against these powerful floods. So they chose not to pay the price. When the community's leaders realized that a proposed plan to relieve the flooding would damage the city's Metropolitan Park, destroy ancient trees and alter the character of the city's main recreation center, they decided not to carry out their original flood alleviation but to save their town's environment inset. Seizing the initiative, the citizens proposed an alternative refined plan, designed through an environment assessment as part of a World Bank-funded project, which created a "living with floods" strategy. As a result, they have created a protected wetland with a wildlife refuge and kept housing from being built in this ecologically important area.
The World Bank believes that economic development is only viable if it is also environmentally sustainable, and is helping its client countries find ways to maintain environmental stewardship on the local, national, regional and global levels, with a large portfolio of projects geared directly at environmental work and a strong set of tools and components built into its regular lending program, including the environmental assessment tool which helped the people of Gualegay make their environmental decision.
The World Bank in brief
* The Bank
is a partner in opening markets and strengthening economies. Its mission
is to improve the quality of life and increase prosperity for people everywhere,
especially the world's poorest. Believing that social objectives must
be supported by economic stability, it brings to the development table
the ability to raise money for development projects at the lowest market
rates and to lend that money to its clients for productive purposes;
• Protect their environment;
• Stimulate private business;
• Reorient government;
• Undertake economic reform programs;
• The International Development Association (IDA), providing interest-free loans to the poorest developing countries;
• The International Finance Corporation (IFC), promoting growth in developing countries by providing support to the private sector;
• The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), providing guarantees to foreign investors against loss caused by noncommercial risk;
• The International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), promoting international investment through conciliation and arbitration of investment disputes between foreign investors and their host countries.