World Bank health efforts failing in Africa – study

2010-06-09 13:04

Billions of dollars for health programs in sub-Saharan Africa by

the World Bank and other development agencies over the past decade have been

largely ineffective, a study released today showed.

The survey funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said the

international lender and its partners’ approach “is not achieving intended

outcomes,” especially against diseases like tuberculosis (TB).

It criticised the so-called sector-wide approaches (SWAps) in which

donors support a government for broad-based improvements in the country’s health

care system instead of more targeted aid.

The World Bank and partner agencies failed to do enough to control

TB in the poorest countries in Africa between 2001 and 2008, said the report

released by the ACTION (Advocacy to Control TB Internationally) group.

Report co-author Richard Skolnik, a former manager of World Bank

programs in South Asia, said: “Given the global economic crisis, now more than

ever we must ensure that aid is good value for money and delivers planned


“Unfortunately, this report shows that important support from the

World Bank and its partner agencies for health in Africa is not improving the

health of the poorest Africans as planned.”

The report noted that there were 9.4 million new TB cases in 2008

and 1.8 million deaths linked to the disease, 44% of them in Africa. It said

most TB patients in sub-Saharan Africa go undiagnosed, including many cases of

drug-resistant TB.

The study said that instead of using TB-specific programs employed

in other countries, the World Bank has relied on the broader model in Africa,

even in countries where the rate of infection tops 20%.

The release of the report coincides with an upcoming replenishment

meeting where the World Bank will plan for new funding from donors.

ACTION policy analyst Paul Jensen, who helped author the report,

said: “The World Bank is fundraising this year from the perspective that its aid

is needed now more than ever.

As donor governments provide financing for the

Bank, they must demand that support for Africa deliver better health for the

poorest people.

Our report shows that donors may get a bigger bang for their

buck elsewhere, unless substantial changes are made to the SWAps


TB is the world’s second leading infectious killer after HIV and

Aids and the problem is growing with the emergence of new TB strains resistant

to conventional drugs.

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