COVID-19’s Impact on Fiji
Over the last three years, COVID-19’s impact on Fiji has been devastating. The pandemic’s effects hit Fiji’s thriving tourism industry particularly hard, which in 2020 accounted for 38% of Fiji’s gross domestic product (GDP). As a result, Fijian leaders acted quickly to implement recovery efforts, aimed at supporting sustainable economic growth and adapting to the “new normal” that the pandemic imposed. While the general public met some of these measures with opposition, these measures remained necessary in the face of new unprecedented challenges.

The 2020 Initial Response

The COVID-19 pandemic sent shockwaves through Fiji in 2020, with businesses closing and international travel restrictions put in place to keep the country safe from outbreaks. During this time, the focus was on adapting to the short-term new market realities brought by the pandemic, which resulted in these business closures. By July 2020, 50% of tourism-focused businesses had either temporarily or fully closed and 20% of non-tourism-focused businesses “indicated a need to defer loans,” according to an International Finance Corporation (IFC) report.

In 2019, 24% of the population lived below the national poverty line, a number that has slowly grown since 2013. Unemployment figures also rose from 4.3% in 2018 to 4.9% in 2021.

The IFC conducted a survey to better assess the situation. The survey received 3,596 responses from businesses, with 17% of those primarily servicing the tourism industry. This survey’s findings helped establish strategies for moving forward, with the long-term goal of reducing COVID-19’s impact on Fiji.

The 2021 Outbreak

After a year of minimal COVID-19 cases, an outbreak occurred in April 2021. By July 2021, COVID-19’s impact on Fiji worsened, with the nation averaging more than 900 new COVID-19 cases daily. The Ministry of Health and Medical Services led Fiji’s response effort to this outbreak and successfully implemented quarantine and lockdown measures, provided COVID-19 vaccinations and utilized contact tracing and cluster investigations to surveil infection trends. By that same month, more than 31% of the target population had received their first doses of the vaccine and Fiji had already fully vaccinated many frontline workers.

International partners also showed their support during this critical time. Countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom assisted by providing life-saving medical supplies and pledging donations. Multilateral organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the EU assisted by ensuring better accessibility to COVID-19 vaccines and equipment, including testing machines and miscellaneous medical supplies totaling more than $2.6 million in value.

Curbing Concerns in 2022

Despite controversies and civil unrest surrounding hard-line regulations, such as Fiji’s “no jab, no job” policy, the country achieved a significant milestone by the end of 2021. Approximately 90% of the target population had received second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Although the country’s health care efforts saw success in curbing the spread of the virus, the pandemic’s impact on Fiji’s economy continued, with significant public debt-to-GDP ratios resulting from the persisting 2020 deficits. In addition, the global economy witnessed some of the highest surges of inflation in the past 20 years. These inflated prices include shipping, import, energy and food costs.

To revive its tourism industry, Fiji re-opened its borders to travel with modified guidelines. However, despite these efforts, economic growth did not rebound as expected due to the lingering civil unrest from the previous year and the emergence of an Omicron variant outbreak.

Current Concerns and Trends

As of March 2023, Fiji has made significant progress in its vaccination campaign, with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services reporting a 95% full vaccination rate for the target population. Infection trends are continually decreasing as well, and over the past month, Fiji reported only one new case. One can attribute this positive development to the general public adhering to effective health measures.

The tourism industry is also gradually recovering, with international travel to Fiji fully resuming after a long hiatus. As of February 2023, travelers to Fiji no longer need to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or travel insurance. Initial figures from 2022 show that tourist arrivals sat at around 45% of pre-pandemic figures.

However, even with progress in the medical and tourism industries, economic figures are still hurting. David Gould, the World Bank’s lead economist for the Pacific, estimated that while economic output is growing, levels may not exceed pre-pandemic levels until 2024. One contributing factor may be the record-breaking 30% unemployment rate in 2022, according to the Fiji Times.

The World Bank’s Pacific Economic Update advises Fijian leaders to be cautious when accepting fiscal support. Concerns include global economic uncertainty, debt servicing and rising inflation rates. To address these concerns, re-budgeting and public spending cuts can help to maximize the efficiency of taxpayer dollars and to prevent future public debt. Once Fiji’s economic output recovers to pre-pandemic levels, policymakers can invest in fiscal buffers to allow for economic leeway during future economic disasters.


In 2021, the World Bank swiftly approved a $50 million credit for Fiji as vigorous support for unemployment assistance, strengthening the Fijian social protection system and ensuring equitable access to social protection services. While this relief is not a permanent solution to Fiji’s rising poverty levels, it did push GDP growth from -15.2% in 2020 to -4.1% in 2021 and then from 6.3% in 2022 to 7.7% in 2023.

To this day, the World Bank continues its support to lessen COVID-19’s impact on Fiji. After discussions held with the Fijian government and other civil and private organizations, the World Bank Group developed a Country Partnership Framework for Fiji with the primary goal of reducing poverty emphasized by the pandemic and increasing sustainable wealth from 2020 to 2024. To do this, officials prioritize fostering inclusive and private sector-led economic growth, building fiscal and climate-based resilience and increasing gender equality.

The framework paints a picture of a bright future for Fiji. However, humanitarian efforts from the broader international community must continue in order for Fiji to return to its once-booming economic self.

– Anthony Lee
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The largest country in Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is “among the five poorest nations in the world.” Political instability, humanitarian crises, and conflict have aided the fact that 64% of all Congolese lived under the poverty line in 2021. With the population growing, along with unemployment, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government, joined with international aid, has been making efforts toward poverty reduction in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Socioeconomic Issues

According to data from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government and the International Monetary Fund’s country reports, unemployment impacts 30% of young citizens, which the COVID-19 crisis has only impacted more. Within the workforce, there is a gap between genders. In 2021, Congolese women only made up 23% of the government, 14% of the parliament and 24% of communal councils. Unemployment is higher among women, at 10.2% juxtaposed to 9% for men.

The country is one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa in levels of morbidity and mortality, along with having a maternity mortality ratio of 378 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy for the Republic of Congo report. When it comes to education, the Democratic Republic of Congo has seen a shortage of qualified teachers, a high student-to-teacher ratio and poor school infrastructure.

Poverty is the main issue within the country, as estimates have stated that the poverty rate rose between the years 2019 and 2020 by 4%, according to IMF. This is in large part due to the outbreak of COVID-19, which aggravated an economic recession and made it hard for Congolese people to afford rent, electricity and water bills, food and health care.

National Development Plan

The IMF report outlines the country’s National Development Plan 2022-2026. The goal of the plan is to “build a strong, diversified and resilient economy.” To do so, the government plans on focusing on agriculture, industry, tourism, real estate, technology and economic zones. This plan to regrow the economy comes with the prospect of an agreement with the IMF that could provide monetary aid.

Agriculture is an essential employer within the DRC, making it the first priority in the plan. By focusing on it, the country believes it can “fight effectively against unemployment, poverty, uncontrolled urbanization, the disarticulation of the national territory, food insecurity, and the foreign aid deficit.” The development of industry could bring modernization to the country and create jobs. In a similar vein, developing economic zones can create a “new national economy” and open them up to globalization. Tourism is a potential new market for the country to open up to, along with digitalization.

Following a visit to the DRC on February 15, 2023, the IMF released a statement reviewing the country’s recent economic data, saying that the agency “looks forward to continuing engagement in support of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

The World Bank

In 2022, the World Bank endorsed a Country Partnership Framework for the DRC that “promotes the stabilization and development of DRC, supporting strategic priorities and critical reforms to improve governance and deepen stabilization efforts.” The World Bank focuses on supporting the country’s developments in education, health and social protection.

As of June 2022, the World Bank aided poverty reduction in the Democratic Republic of Congo with $7.27 billion that financially supported 21 national projects and four regional projects. One of these projects is the Emergency Equity and System Strengthening in Education, which supports the country’s free primary education and lessens the burden of education costs on Congolese families. This project saw 2.5 million additional students enroll in school within 2021-2022 and allowed for around 60,000 teachers to receive regular salaries, the World Bank reports. The World Bank Urban Drinking Water Supply Project saw the installation of more than 450 community waterpoints, and the STEP-KIN project, launched in March 2021, is targeted to help 250,000 in its next phase.

The Human Rights Council

Recently, the United Nations Human Rights Council has been holding hearings with the Presidents of nations such as the DRC regarding peace plans. The speakers at this panel said that “human rights were at the centre of all global issues the world confronted today” and that “international financial institutions needed to undertake special measures to support developing countries in protecting basic rights to food, livelihood and a decent living.”

Félix-Antione Tshisekedi Tshilombo, the president of the DRC, spoke about political and military conflict within the country, a factor that can worsen poverty. The Human Rights Council and the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights recently addressed this conflict, reiterating a call for peace in Africa, along with assuring that “the U.N. Human Rights Office stands ready to continue our work to support the country in its efforts to overcome the human rights challenges that remain.”

As poverty reduction in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues, it is important to keep in mind how valuable foreign aid is to the rebuilding and restructuring of communities and countries.

– Audrey Gaines
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a South Asian country with a history of economic troubles and high poverty rates. The World Bank ranked Bangladesh the 61st weakest economy in the world in 2021, with a GDP per capita of just $6,493. As one of the more impoverished countries in the world, and with children aged 0 to 14 accounting for around 26% of the country’s total population of 169.4 million in 2021, it is unsurprising that child poverty remains an area of focus for Bangladesh.

Education in Bangladesh

Education is one of the most pivotal factors affecting poverty and living conditions in any country, and there are multiple reasons for this. Implementing efficient and successful education systems can create a path to political participation. Another benefit of sufficient education is that it is possible to improve the overall health of a nation by teaching about good health practices and topics such as nutrition.

Improving the education system would not only reduce child poverty in Bangladesh but would also help prevent poverty from continuing into adulthood by increasing job opportunities. Increased jobs, driven by education, can stimulate the incomes of poor families and boost national economic growth by breaking the cycle of extreme poverty and underdevelopment.

Bangladesh has seen development in the rates of child education over recent years, with nine out of 10 children in school at the age of six, according to an education fact sheet from 2020. However, there are still some issues with education rates, particularly among children living in poverty. For example:

  • About 52% of children who lack foundational reading skills are within the bottom two wealth quintiles, demonstrating the undisputable link between poverty and education rates.
  • Completion of primary education stood at 83% but completion of higher secondary education declined to 29%.
  • Only 12% of children in the lowest wealth quintile complete higher secondary education compared to 50% from the wealthiest quintile.

Children’s Health

World Bank data records in 2020 place the infant mortality rate in Bangladesh at 24 per 1,000 births, a relatively high figure when compared to a rate of four per 1,000 births for the U.K. (a considerably more wealthy country) in the same year.

Children in Bangladesh are vulnerable to illness and disease with pneumonia standing as one of the most deadly conditions for infants. Pneumonia accounts for 19% of deaths in children under 5 annually, a 2021 research article by Ahmed Ehsanur Rahman and others says.

Malnutrition is another indicator of child poverty in Bangladesh and massively affects overall health by increasing the risk of disease, stunting growth and raising the risk of infant mortality. One way to measure malnutrition among children is stunting, which refers to children who fail to reach their expected height for their age due to various factors of poor health. According to the Global Nutrition Report, stunting impacted 28% of children under 5 in Bangladesh in 2019.

Access to Water and Sanitation

In 2020, only 58% of Bangladesh’s total population had access to a sufficient handwashing facility with soap and clean water. The COVID-19 pandemic, which began in early 2020, made poor sanitation provisions much more concerning. The World Bank reports that, in 2020, only 59% of the population had access to “safely managed clean drinking water services.”

The provision of sanitation also impacts education. Across Bangladesh, in 2018, just 50% of primary schools provided gender-segregated toilets for girls to use, which has contributed to 25% of girls skipping school during their menstrual cycles.

In 2018, E. coli bacteria appeared in about 80% of water samples from “private piped water taps,” which is comparable to the rate of contamination in pond water. Poor water quality is particularly dangerous for children as they can easily contract diseases. This emphasizes the importance of ensuring high-quality water provision. WaterAid reports that 3.79 million people in Bangladesh lack access to clean water, 75.4 million people lack access to proper toilet facilities and more than 1,000 children under 5 face diarrhea-related deaths annually as a consequence of unclean water and poor sanitation in the country.

Taking Action

The World Bank launched a Multipurpose Disaster Shelter Project (MDSP) in 2022, which will run until June 2023, focused on providing safe havens for more than 14 million people in coastal regions of Bangladesh that are susceptible to cyclones and floods. The project involved the construction of 552 new shelters in Bangladesh, which will function as primary schools during normal weather conditions. The project also constructed more than 550 kilometers of evacuation roads and renovated 450 already established shelters.

The BRAC, a non-governmental organization based in Bangladesh, initiated its BRAC Education Programme (BEP) more than 30 years ago. The program works to build and operate schools, establish libraries and educational programs and implement a variety of other structural reforms to the education system in Bangladesh. In 2019, the BEP provided education to 3.17 million students in 35,957 schools set up as part of the program. The BRAC partners with charities from across the world to implement its programs in Bangladesh and beyond.

The World Bank approved $200 million in September 2020 for a project to improve access to safe water and sanitation in rural areas of Bangladesh through piped water schemes. The aims of the project look to improve overall access to water, sanitation and hygiene in Bangladesh.

In Dhaka, a Bangladesh city where only 20% of the population has access to a safe sewage system, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) launched SWEEP, a service that provides residents with safe and sanitary disposal of human waste. The program reduces the spread of disease among the urban poor by abiding by proper health and hygiene measures during the waste removal process.

Through the efforts of several organizations working to combat poverty-related conditions and hold children at the forefront of initiatives, the nation has made strides regarding child poverty in Bangladesh. With continued progress, children in Bangladesh can live an improved quality of life with full access to basic necessities.

– Sophie Sadera
Photo: Flickr

Saudi Arabia's Support to Yemen
On February 21, 2023, Saudi Arabia signed an agreement to deposit $1 billion into the central bank of its middle eastern neighbor to the south, Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in April 2022, promised $3 billion worth of aid to Yemen’s internationally recognized president, Rashal al-Alimi, in a bid to bolster the country’s struggling economy. Saudi Arabia’s recent support to Yemen aims to assist the Riyadh-backed government to introduce much-needed economic reforms.

The Crisis in Yemen

According to the World Bank, Yemen’s GDP per capita, steadily declining since the onset of the war in 2014, stood at $701.7 in 2018. This decline is likely the result of many governmental issues, but primarily an ongoing civil war entering its ninth year. According to the United Nations Population Fund, as a result of the devastating conflict, 21.6 million Yemeni people need humanitarian aid in 2023. About 80% of the population lives in conditions of poverty, struggling to secure their basic needs, including access to water, food and health services.

The conflict started when Houthi rebels took control of the country’s capital, Sanaa, with demands for lower fuel costs, which in January 2015, forced the Yemen government into exile. Later in March 2015, with U.S. support, Gulf states, including the UAE, driven by Saudi Arabia, began to push for “economic isolation and air strikes” against the Iran-backed insurgents.

Even with the help of multiple powerful countries, the civil war has all but torn to pieces Yemen’s already struggling economy. According to the Department of State, since the onset of the war, as of 2022, the U.S. has provided close to $4.5 billion worth of humanitarian aid to struggling Yemeni people.

Once importing 40% of its grain from Ukraine, food prices have skyrocketed in Yemen since supply chains came to halt following Russia’s invasion of the Eastern European country in February 2022. Additionally, oil refining and exportation — Yemen’s primary sources of income — have slowed acutely since Houthi attacks on tankers and crucial processing facilities.

According to the Middle East Institute, “…given that most of the oil exported from Yemen’s southern terminals is pumped out of fields in the southern part of the country, the Houthis’ attacks could reignite historical grievances over the distribution of resources.”

In an attempt to pay off debts and finance public work sector salaries, the Aden branch of the Yemeni central bank has printed new banknotes, increasing inflation in turn. Insurgent-regulated regions do not accept currency printed by the central bank of Aden.

Looking Ahead

The money that Saudi Arabia and the UAE pledged intended to combat these issues, however, it remains unclear as to whether Saudi Arabia’s recent support to Yemen in late February forms part of the $3 billion promise made with the UAE in April 2022.

Headquartered in Abu Dhabi and a sub-organization of the 22-member Arab League, the Arab Monetary Fund will help to ensure the correct use of Saudi Arabia’s recent support to Yemen in the form of the $1 million deposit. The financing intends to fund new initiatives to spur economic growth and address poverty in Yemen while “stabilizing the currency.”

A delicate ecosystem, the Arabian Peninsula is crucial in world oil and petroleum exports. Yemen sits at the very tip of the peninsula and Saudi Arabia neighbors it to the north and Oman neighbors it to the northeast. Aid pledged to Yemen is almost sure to have positive effects on Middle Eastern economies and the U.S. as supply chains are symbiotic relationships between countries.

– Stella Tirone
Photo: Flickr

Kwenda Social Program
The Kwenda social program is an initiative that the government of Angola launched to address the country’s social and economic challenges. Angola is a resource-rich country, but it has struggled with poverty and inequality for decades. The Kwenda social program aims to reduce poverty and promote social welfare through a range of measures that target vulnerable populations.

Angola’s Economic Struggles

Angola is the largest oil supplier in sub-Saharan Africa. Oil production accounts for about half of Angola’s GDP, more than 70% of the Angolan government’s revenue and more than 90% of Angola’s exports. The health and economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the subsequent drop in oil prices further crippled Angola’s struggling economy and exacerbated poverty levels.

Impressively, Angola’s government took swift action and unraveled the Kwenda social program in response to the economic strain on the population. The premise on which the Angolan government formulated the initiative is poverty relief for the country’s “poorest and most vulnerable.” The program became the first cash transfer initiative to deliver financial assistance through digital deposits. What makes the Kwenda social program unique is that along with its focus on economic relief, it provides human development and economic activities and aims to help 1.6 million families, 60% of whom are female-headed.

In terms of land area, Angola is “one of the largest countries in Africa,” with almost 70% of the population living within cities. However, that also means that a considerable chunk of the population lives in remote areas. Angolans living in these parts of the country face limitations due to debilitated infrastructure and a lack of public transportation.

This presented a significant challenge to the Angolan government during the economic crisis because the government could not easily reach a major portion (about 88%) of the rural population suffering from multidimensional poverty.

Benefits of the Kwenda Social Program

The Kwenda social program addresses the difficulties in reaching rural populations by combining digital tools with physical cash distribution. Furthermore, the Angolan government has established community centers in exceptionally remote communities with community workers to help facilitate physical cash deliveries to the poverty-stricken. These community centers play an integral role in collecting grievances from the local population, administering and implementing the program and providing health and educational services for disadvantaged youth.

One of the segments of the Angolan population that the Kwenda social program has particularly helped is women. This is because women lead many of the households (60%) that the Angolan government aims to help through the program. Another target group of people receiving financial benefits from the Kwenda social program is the elderly population. More than 10,000 elderly people receive cash transfers as a result of the program.

The Angolan government is not the only financier of the initiative. Of the $420 million set aside for the Kwenda social program, the World Bank is funding $320 million. Additionally, in 2022, the World Bank issued a statement of praise regarding the Kwenda social program. In 2021, the initiative completed more than 300,000 digital transfers to beneficiaries. Additionally, by January 2022, the Angolan government had registered more than half a million families into the program. Of those families, nearly half, 247,000, had collected one cash transfer at minimum.

Looking Ahead

The Kwenda social program is a significant initiative that has the potential to transform the lives of vulnerable populations in Angola. The program is based on a comprehensive and integrated approach that addresses the root causes of poverty and inequality. The program has already had a significant impact on the lives of thousands of households and has helped to promote social inclusion and women’s empowerment. With continued support from the World Bank, the government and other stakeholders, the program has the potential to bring about impactful and lasting change that can build a more inclusive and prosperous social fabric in Angola.

– Aemal Nafis
Photo: Flickr

Future of Ukraine
The future is often war’s largest casualty. For some 8,000 Ukrainian civilians and 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers who have fought to preserve their homeland, the future no longer exists. Nearly 14 million civilians are now disconnected from their homes. The future of Ukraine stands on a knife’s edge; however, a year after Russia’s invasion, there is at least a future to discuss. Moreover, there is a growing consensus that Ukraine’s recovery requires planning right now.

Economic Devastation

On February 23, 2023, the United Nations called for an immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukrainian territory. Although Putin, known for his violations of international law, will almost certainly ignore the resolution, it does beg the question of what a post-war Ukraine would look like. As a result of the war, a third of the country lives in poverty, with another 60% at risk of falling into poverty should the conflict continue. The war has destroyed $100 billion of infrastructure and forced 50% of businesses to close.

Marshall Plan for Ukraine?

Given this financial and physical devastation, one may wonder exactly what the future of Ukraine is. Participants during the Davos 2023 Summit discussed that rebuilding the country would require a recovery program comparable only to the Marshall Plan after World War II. With that plan, the United States contributed the equivalent of almost $200 billion to western Europe in aid. A Marshall Plan for Ukraine would cost three times as much as the original and would have to overcome the hesitancy of nations like the U.S. to further involve themselves in the country.

Estimates for Recovery

In September 2022, the World Bank, the European Commission and the Ukrainian government place the recovery estimate at $349 billion, of which around $100 billion is needed for short-term recovery. This includes financing the rebuilding of hospitals, schools, roads and bridges. It also consists of the clearing mines that prevent the cultivation of Ukraine’s fertile soil. In a separate communication a few months earlier, Ukrainian President Zelensky declared the target figure at $750 billion, citing the need for repatriation, humanitarian assistance and modernization.

Commitment to Providing Aid

Although allies are shying away from direct military assistance, international aid is crucial in keeping Ukraine afloat. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) leads the charge, which provided $12 billion in 2022 and plans to augment that support in 2023. This aid goes primarily to health care workers and educators, protecting the future of Ukraine in the short and long term. Additionally, the World Bank provided more than $18 billion in grants and loans for Ukraine as of February 2023, the vast majority of which comes from the United States.

Supporting Ukraine: In the Best Interest for Europe and Beyond

The future of Ukraine remains incredibly uncertain. However, a consensus is emerging that the situation cannot remain fraught when the war comes to an end. A weakened or failed Ukraine is a security threat to Europe and would create a refugee crisis because Ukrainian refugees would have no need to return to their country. As the Financial Times wrote in December 2022, “The potential geopolitical cost of failure is high…The fighting continues, but the time to plan for peace is now.”

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Flickr

World Bank's Mission
The resignation of World Bank president David Malpass on February 16, 2023, has placed a spotlight on the World Bank. Throughout the years, the World Bank’s endeavors have brought both victory and controversy. However, overall, the World Bank’s mission to end poverty has seen significant success across all regions of the world.

The Founding of the World Bank

About 12 months before the conclusion of World War II, the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference resulted in the creation of two institutions aimed at igniting economic growth and reducing poverty: the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The World Bank’s endeavors originally focused on “rebuilding the economies of countries devastated by war and increasing the economic development of developing countries,” but now, the institution works on all types of development.

According to the World Bank’s website, the World Bank’s mission is to “end extreme poverty” and “promote shared prosperity.” Made up of five institutions, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development; the International Development Association; the International Finance Corporation; the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, the World Bank partners with governments and private sectors to provide funding and assistance for poverty reduction initiatives. Since its founding in 1947, the World Bank has aided 189 member nations with $45.9 billion worth of financial assistance support for at least 12,000 development projects.

World Bank Projects in Africa

The World Bank’s website breaks down its own results into regions, starting with Africa. Its strategy for the continent aims to address extreme weather events, reduce hunger, create employment opportunities, increase resilience, safeguard the most vulnerable people and improve human capital.

In Somalia, the World Bank partnered with the Federal Government of Somalia to implement “social safety net provisions.” Within the first two years of support, more than 1 million Somalians received funding for “basic consumption needs.”

The World Bank has supported the Niger government for close to a decade to help establish an adequate social safety net. The Adaptive Safety Net Project 2 “Wadata Talaka” (PFSA 2), which launched on June 20, 2019, has provided direct support to more than 3 million Nigerien people.

Initiatives in East and Pacific Asia

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the World Bank has implemented emergency projects in many East and Pacific Asian countries, a few being the Philippines, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea. The emergency funding allows these countries to “purchase medical and laboratory supplies, train medical staff and strengthen national public health systems,” the World Bank website says.

In Vietnam, the World Bank’s endeavors have improved access to quality health care services for 13.7 million Vietnamese people in mostly remote areas in Northern Vietnam. Through the Northeast and Red River Delta Regions Health System Support Project, the World Bank “improved the treatment capacity of 74 public hospitals at the district and provincial levels by investing in upgrading the medical infrastructure and training health workers.”

These hospitals can now provide specialized health care services in the areas of “cardiology, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, oncology and trauma (surgery).” This means patients no longer need to travel very far to seek this care.

To reduce Indonesia’s national stunting rate, the World Bank established the Investing in Nutrition and Early Years Program in 2018 to support Indonesia’s national strategy. The project managed to decrease the national rate of stunting by 6.4% in three years.

World Bank Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean

In April 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank committed $29.1 billion to Latin America and the Caribbean to combat the crisis till June 2022. Within this region, the World Bank has been focusing on “promoting inclusive growth,” “investing in human capital” and “supporting countries’ development goals” while “fostering a green and sustainable recovery.” The World Bank has provided funding to countries such as Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador and Peru, with support ranging from reformation, stability efforts, education expansion, sustainability and economic recovery.

Supporting South Asia

South Asia has received $31 billion in funding from the World Bank since March 2020. More than 857 million disadvantaged South Asians received support through $2.73 billion of funding provided by 10 initiatives supporting social safety nets. These finances provided social assistance to the most impoverished households to help them meet their basic needs. This funding has also supported health projects that have equipped health care centers, bolstered education programs and increased vaccine availability.

World Bank Projects in MENA

The World Bank’s mission in the Middle East and North Africa is to “eliminate poverty and promote shared prosperity through strengthening human capital, supporting jobs and economic transformation, advancing gender equity, addressing fragility and enabling green growth,” its website says. World Bank projects in the MENA equate to about $23.2 billion. Since April 2020, the bank has devoted $5.4 billion as of October 2021 to address the pandemic’s impacts and “protect the most vulnerable, support sustainable business growth and job creation and strengthen institutions to rebuild.”

The World Bank’s endeavors have supported the distribution of vaccines in Tunisia, Iraq, Jordan and Yemen. In 2021, the World Bank detailed its strategies for the Middle East, including efforts toward transparency and trust, improving human capital and strengthening gender equality.

The World Bank is one of the leading institutions in the fight against poverty. Its mission and impact highlight the importance of the global organization in the progress and development of developing countries.

– Audrey Gaines
Photo: Flickr

Madagascar’s Social Protection Programs
Although very little attention comes the way of Madagascar, recent U.N. aid has placed a much-needed spotlight on its problems. The small island nation off the east coast of Africa has one of the highest poverty rates in the world, with more than 75% of the population living on under $1.90 a day. Looking to address this issue within Madagascar’s institutions, the U.N. worked with local officials to create the ‘Fagnavotse’ social protection program. Fagnavotse provides a mix of health insurance, cash transfers and training services to the poorest Malagasies, reaching more than nine thousand households during its three-year existence. Here is some information about Madagascar’s social protection programs.


A critical part of Fagnavotse is its emphasis on training and protection. Madagascar suffers from extremely low rates of human capital, meaning that despite its abundant natural resources, poor health, education and food access limit long-term growth. Meanwhile, pandemic shocks and the war in Ukraine have raised fuel prices and hampered growth. Madagascar’s social protection program educates farmers on proper practices, providing them with tools and equipping them for the country’s long drought periods. In addition, it offers women affected by gender-based violence and abuse counseling and community support. Over time, the U.N. hopes the program will boost the productivity of Madagascar’s poorest citizens.

Although Fagnavotse was a necessary step in the right direction, access to social protection programs continues to hamper economic growth. Originally conceived for Madagascar’s three most poverty-stricken communes, social protection programs like Fagnavotse only affect 6% of the population and take up around 1% of the budget, suggesting there is room for improvement. A World Bank Study in 2018 found that $50 cash transfers like those in Ethiopia could reduce the poverty rate by as much as 40%. Rather than a sign of defeat, the U.N. chose to treat this as an opportunity to expand its program.

Recent Developments

On February 6, 2023, the World Bank earmarked $250 million in loans for social protection programs in Madagascar. Over the next four years, the aid will target the 3 million poorest Malagasies, more than 13% of the population. The World Bank intends to merge many of the existing social protection programs into a more cohesive system, affecting more people more efficiently. As Marie-Chantal Unwanyiligara, the program’s country manager, stated, “We are very pleased to support a scale-up of Madagascar’s social protection programs … supported by a national social registry that other sectors will use to target the most vulnerable.”

Madagascar’s new social protection program, like Fagnavotse, focuses on immediate aid and long-term growth to reduce the country’s poverty count. The two key aspects of the new program are increased cash transfers to female heads of households and improved access to economic safety nets. This will provide immediate security to the many millions of Malagasies living in extreme poverty while working towards the U.N.’s goal of female empowerment. The World Bank hopes that these cash transfers will disperse themselves throughout the economy, multiplying their positive effect.

In addition, Madagascar’s new social protection program aims to spur growth and tackle the root of the country’s problems. Julia Ravelosa, an economist working with the World Bank, noted that one of the program’s primary objectives is to “encourage girls’ school attendance, promote access to reproductive and health care services, and encourage women’s participation in a package of accompanying measures including financial and economic inclusion.” Madagascar can significantly bolster the country’s overall productivity by improving women’s education and entry into the workforce.

The Road Ahead

Madagascar’s social protection programs still face the challenge of their implementation. For a struggling nation like Madagascar, these reforms are pivotal in reducing extreme poverty and present the quickest opportunity for growth. In the past, low funds and reach hindered the full implementation of these programs, but the World Bank’s support comes as a positive sign in a country that desperately needs one.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Pixabay

Effect of COVID-19 on Poverty in Seychelles
The COVID-19 pandemic had a tremendous effect on all of the world’s countries. However, the impact has not been the same on any two countries, especially when considering the state of poverty in some of the world’s more impoverished nations. Seychelles, an archipelago country located off of East Africa, has been through many ups and downs since the touchdown of the pandemic. In order to plan anti-poverty measures going forward, it is helpful to analyze the effect of COVID-19 on poverty in Seychelles.

Pre-Pandemic Progress

Seychelles has made much progress in reducing its poverty rates over the past few decades. It has the highest GDP per capita of any African country, even exceeding averages from other more prosperous countries on the continent such as Equatorial Guinea and South Africa. This is due to its robust tourism economy, which has been steadily reducing many of the Seychellois’ reliance on subsistence farming.

Though still having a sizable impoverished population, as many countries in Africa do, Seychelles has for the most part seen strong gains in the fight against poverty. For example, the total population of impoverished Seychellois shrunk by 13.5% between 2017 and 2018.

The Effects of COVID-19

The effects of COVID-19 have been widespread in Seychelles, both on the citizen’s health and on their economy. Though different numbers are out there, in 2018, the government of Seychelles itself reported a 25% poverty rate in the country. Due to COVID-19’s crippling effect on the tourism industry, the country’s economy changed during the first couple of years of the pandemic, which in turn has stymied opportunities for the country’s most impoverished residents to climb out of poverty. Thankfully, Seychelles’ economy has seen a strong rebound, thanks in large part due to the country’s tourism sector flourishing once again as the world has opened back up.

Progress Moving Forward

Though much remains in the effort to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on poverty in Seychelles, the outlook is currently hopeful. In addition to Seychelles’ strong economic rebound, as the pandemic wanes, outside aid continues to play a vital role in offsetting COVID-19’s deleterious effects on the country. For example, in 2020 the World Bank pledged $15 million in aid to Seychelles to help mitigate COVID-19’s effects, with the loan intended to specifically help “protect the most vulnerable” citizens of Seychelles. Other nonprofits, such as Global Vision International and Nature Seychelles, work to help the people of Seychelles, especially those in poverty.

Today, while poverty is still a strong issue in Seychelles, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, the progress seen in reducing the impoverished population and providing economic opportunities has been heartening. Though the effect of COVID-19 on poverty in Seychelles has been strong, there have been many victories in the fight to reduce this effect.

– Elijah Beglyakov
Photo: Flickr

Economic Development of Bangladesh
After gaining independence in 1971, Bangladesh was described as a “basket case” and a collapsing and fragile state as it emerged from the war as the second poorest country in the world. At the time, Bangladesh was a war-torn agrarian economy with a number of human development challenges with dwindling productive assets and weak infrastructure. However, Bangladesh proved the international community wrong as they emerged victorious and resilient in their pursuit of economic development, particularly after the 1974 famine.

The World’s Fastest-Growing Economy

Economic development in Bangladesh in the past 50 years has been impressive, with GDP per capita rising to $2,734 in 2021 from $134 in 1971. Bangladesh quickly recovered from the aftermath of its War of Independence as one of the poorest countries in the world to achieve a steady growth rate, even during the times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past two decades, extreme poverty has significantly declined by more than half, dropping from 34% in 2000 to just 11% in 2022. In addition, other key indicators of human well-being, such as maternal mortality rates, life expectancy and primary and secondary education attainment have also shown significant improvement.

One important factor is that almost all children go to school, with the primary school net enrolment rate at 97%. Moreover, more women continue to enroll in schools, and thus enter the workforce, contributing to growth in a wide range of economic sectors. Consequently, maternal mortality cases decreased significantly from 2000 to 2017, from 434 live births per 100,000 to 173.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bangladesh still found a way to prosper. Households saw improvements in regard to coping strategies and food security amidst the pandemic, and according to self-reported surveys, families residing in poor and slum areas of Dhaka and Chittagong experienced substantial improvement in their food security. This was linked to an increase in employment opportunities observed between two rounds of surveys conducted. Survey results also indicated a general improvement in the labor market and employment situation in 2022.

How Did They Do It?

There were several factors that contributed to the economic development of Bangladesh, particularly in the agricultural sector of the country. Following the birth of the nation in the 1970s, Bangladeshi scientists helped successfully implement innovations in crop varieties that made the country self-sufficient in food. Advancements in sustainable food production practices, despite the difficulties posed by frequent flooding, have been instrumental in combating hunger, poverty and malnutrition.

Furthermore, Bangladesh became the second largest exporter of ready-made garment (RMG) products in the world which greatly increased employment in the manufacturing sector. The growth of RMG also benefitted female labor, as the number of women entering the workforce increased to 35% in 2021, from 21% in 1990.  Clean energy also became more accessible for the 8.2 million people living in the rural parts of Bangladesh, with every home having access to electricity. These improvements led to increases in immigration and the nation saw an increase in economic contributions from migrant workers.

Partnership with the World Bank

In 1972, the World Bank saw potential in Bangladesh, beginning a partnership by investing a $50 million credit. This turned into more than $38 billion in financing for economic development in Bangladesh over the following years. Today, the World Bank is Bangladesh’s largest external funder. The decision to continue funding centered around Bangladesh’s impressive achievements and the necessary actions required to maintain Bangladesh’s progress toward its goal of becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2031.

Despite these accomplishments, the current challenges of high inflation and declining foreign exchange reserves challenge the notion of stable macroeconomic performance in the country. Furthermore, concerns persist about the nature of growth and its impact on the population. Roughly 24.3% of the population struggles to fulfill basic necessities and the wealthiest 5% hold 27.8% of the nation’s income.

Nonetheless, the impressive economic development and poverty reduction in Bangladesh are inspiring. However, to achieve high-income status and meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), significantly increased efforts toward inclusive growth are necessary.

– Noura Matalqa
Photo: Flickr