Health, nutrition, and population policies play a critical role in economic and human development and in poverty alleviation and are central to the World Bank’s strategy to support country efforts in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Over the past 30 years, significant achievements have occurred in global health, such as reducing infant mortality and malnutrition; the world has also witnessed dramatic advancements in health innovations and technologies. Yet the gap between rich and poor countries in health and incomes remains as stark as ever. Preventable communicable diseases in developing countries kill almost 11 million children every year. Malaria, a preventable disease, claims the life of a child somewhere in the world every 30 seconds. More than 500,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth every year. Tuberculosis is curable, and yet 1.7 million die from it annually. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is still uncontrolled in most low-income countries, with about 39.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS globally, two-thirds of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa.
The World Bank’s last Health, Nutrition, and Population (HNP) strategy, released in 1997, predated the creation of the 2015 MDGs and the emergence of new multilateral organizations and foundations that have greatly increased their prominence in health financing—such as the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In the meantime, pandemics and regional epidemics have continued to emerge, while others have expanded.
In light of the momentous changes of the past decade in the international architecture of development assistance for health and of persisting and new HNP challenges worldwide, the World Bank developed a new HNP Strategy in 2007 which updates the Bank’s contribution to improving health outcomes for the next decade.
The ultimate objective of World Bank work in HNP, reinforced by this new strategy, is to improve the health conditions of the people in client countries, particularly the poor and the vulnerable, in the context of its overall strategy for poverty alleviation. To achieve this objective, this new strategy states the vision and the Action Plan necessary to strengthen Bank capacity to better serve client countries by capitalizing on comparative advantages and by improving collaboration with global partners.
With the implementation of this new HNP Strategy, the Bank aims at bolstering country efforts to improve health conditions for the poor and the vulnerable and to prevent them from becoming impoverished or made destitute as a result of illness. The Bank envisions that its financial support and advice will help client countries achieve these HNP results in a way that also contributes to their overall fiscal sustainability, economic growth, global competitiveness, and good governance. This new Strategy is embedded in the core mission of the Bank to alleviate poverty worldwide. To achieve these objectives, countries need to articulate a response from multiple sectors that influence HNP results. The Bank, with its 19 sectors working globally in 139 countries, is uniquely positioned to support country efforts.
HNP Strategy in Africa
Health outcomes in the Africa Region are not progressing fast enough to achieve economic growth and reduce poverty, and the region is unlikely to meet the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Laboring under geographical, environmental, cultural, and political challenges, the HIV/AIDS crisis puts a heavier burden on Africa than on any other part of the world.
In the context of the new 2007 HNP Strategy and the recent developments in global health, the World Bank restructured its Africa Health, Nutrition and Population (HNP) unit to provide a more comprehensive support to African countries to better serve their needs and help them improve health outcomes. Programs emphasize health systems as a key vehicle for improving HNP outcomes while continuing to help countries to control priority diseases and accelerate their efforts in nutrition, population and reproductive health to reach their MDGs.
In the coming decade, the World Bank will improve its capacity to support African countries efforts in achieving HNP results by:
- Renewing its focus on HNP results.
- Increasing its contribution to partner-country efforts to strengthen health systems for HNP results while ensuring synergy between health system strengthening and priority disease interventions, particularly in low-income countries.
- Strengthening its capacity to advise partner countries on a multi-sectoral approach to HNP results.
- Ensuring sustainable financing of HNP interventions.
Specifically, the Africa Region HNP program aims to support African Countries in achieving the following MDGs:
- Reduce malnutrition (MDG1)
- Reduce infant and child mortality (MDG4)
- Reduce maternal mortality and improved access to reproductive health (MDG5)
- Reduce burden of communicable diseases such as malaria, TB, Onchocerciasis (river blindness) and avian influenza.