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ABC News: World Bank Grants Hope

Development Marketplace Award Grants to Help Communities Around The World

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ABC News

By TERENCE KENNY
June 1, 2007

 

These days, when we hear about the World Bank, most of us are likely inclined to think about the bank's outgoing president, Paul Wolfowitz, and the scandal that has caused him to tender his resignation.

kidsFor others, the World Bank conjures up images of demonstrations around the world in recent years — some of them violent — by anti-globalization protesters upset at the bank's policies and mission.

 

Overshadowed by all this are the programs run by the World Bank that proponents say help the people and the economies of developing countries all over the planet.

 

One such program is called Development Marketplace, a competition that awards grants of up to $200,000 to fund creative, small-scale development projects. The winning projects must demonstrate the ability to deliver results and must have the potential to be expanded or replicated.

 

Hans Martin Boehmer, manager of corporate strategy for the World Bank, and three Development Marketplace grant winners recently appeared on ABC News Now's "All Together NOW" to discuss the program and their projects.

 

As Boehmer explains, the program began in 1998 when James Wolfensohn, the bank's president at the time, decided that the bank needed to explore some new ideas and new ways to help communities around the globe.

 

After the bank's employees were asked to come up with some fresh ideas, Development Marketplace was born. The goal of the competition, according to Boehmer, "is to ask really very simple questions: What are new ideas that work, that are small, that maybe get overlooked but that can be scaled up?"

 

"Good ideas alone are great, but they need to have a plan to make them bigger," Boehmer said. More importantly, to make them successful, Boehmer explained, one "needs to have a little bit of business savvy."

 

This year 3,000 hopefuls applied and from that pool, 22 projects received grants.

Anshu Gupta was awarded $128,000 for his project that aims to improve the reproductive health of women living in villages and slums in India. He provides them with affordable, clean and easy-to-use sanitary napkins made of recycled clothes.

 

While the mantra for those of us who want to help the poor is to provide "food, shelter and clothing," one of the basic needs that often gets overlooked is one that is essential to most women. For some, sanitary and hygienic methods of dealing with menses is a luxury.

 

"People who do not have enough to cover themselves cannot think of a piece of cloth as a napkin and that's the reason you have the worst possible things, which people use in [India] and many other places," said Gupta. "Women are forced to use sand, forced to use ash, forced to use the dirtiest piece of cloth, so it is a big health problem."

 

While Gupta's program currently provides 10,000 sanitary napkins per month, with his new grant, he hopes to now help 70,000 more.

 

Grant winner Abraham Awolich is the co-director of The New Sudan Education Initiative and his group was awarded $200,000 to help fund The New Sudan School of Health Sciences, a network of five secondary schools.

 

While Sudan may evoke images of war and genocide taking place in Darfur in the Western part of the country, Awolich explains that his efforts are spent in the southern part of the country. In 2005, after 24 years of war, a peace agreement was reached and now, said Awolich, "there is a relative peacefulness in southern Sudan."

 

"Because of war a lot of people have not been going to school in South Sudan and therefore we don't have resources in the health-care area," he said. "So our goal is to try to establish a system that is designed to address issues like this in post-conflict countries like  Sudan."

 

Awolich's program targets high school age kids with an emphasis on educating girls and in 2008 he hopes to open his first school. While the first class will consist of 200 girls, it will eventually expand to 1,000 students and Awolich hopes that ultimately the network of schools that he envisions will provide the education and training necessary to jump-start Southern Sudan's nearly collapsed health sector.

 

Patricia Wolff, a pediatrician from St. Louis, Mo., got a grant to help children in Haiti, where she says 162,000 children are malnourished. Wolff explained her program and the unique way it is helping some of the kids in that country who suffer from malnutrition.

 

Through her program, Wolff provides what is called RUTF or ready-to-use therapeutic food. The food is an energy-dense paste of roasted peanuts, powdered milk, vegetable oil, sugar, vitamins and minerals. It is a peanut buttery food that rapidly puts weight on those who desperately need to do so.

 

According to Wolff, RUTF works better than the World Health Organization's current recommendations for fighting malnutrition. Those recommendations include diluted milk and a one-month stay in the hospital. But with RUTF, said Wolff, "not only is hospitalization shortened but the families are freed from spending time in the hospital with a sick child."

And the food benefits Haiti in other positive ways as well. RUTF contains locally produced ingredients, guaranteeing Haitian farmers a market for their produce.

 

With the $200,000 grant from Development Marketplace, Wolff expects to treat and cure 4,000 children in the next two years.

 

To learn more about Development Marketplace and the programs mentioned here you can visit these sites:

http://web.worldbank.org/

http://www.goonj.info/

http://www.nesei.org/

http://www.medsandfoodforkids.org/

 

 




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