By Quentin Wodon, president, Rotary Club of Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., USA
As a lead economist at the World Bank, it has been exciting to see my organization step up to the plate and commit resources to the fight to eradicate polio, as we observe World Polio Day.
While the World Bank is not one of the spearheading partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the organization does work closely with the GPEI, of which Rotary is a leading partner, as well as country governments to provide financing to help end polio. At the request of the Government of Nigeria, the World Bank has recently committed $125 million for polio eradication in the country this summer. About half of these resources will fund oral polio vaccines and other operational requirements, while the other half will help fund routine immunizations.
In considering the World Bank’s investments, I am struck by how intertwined the two issues of polio eradication and broader development are.
The World Bank program document notes multiple obstacles to eradicating polio, in large part due to the lack of security in the northeast caused by the Boko Haram insurgency. As a result, special measures are being introduced including “hit and run” interventions to immunize children and get out as quickly as possible in problem areas; building a “firewall” by ensuring immunity in areas surrounding these inaccessible villages; relying on local volunteers who won’t draw attention as vaccinators; reintroducing the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) into routine immunizations; conducting bus stop and market vaccinations; and ensuring that all people in the displacement camps have been vaccinated.
Take part in World Polio Day
In addition, the World Bank is providing another $450 million to support development projects in Nigeria’s northeast including:
- immediate basic social infrastructure and psychosocial support to communities most affected by displacement;
- labor-intensive work and skills development for youth, women and the unemployed as well as cash transfers for displaced families and individuals who return voluntarily and safely to their old communities;
- access to irrigation and drainage services, delivery of agricultural inputs, and other support for farmers in conflict-affected households, particularly women and youth;
- financial incentives for teachers who have completed psycho-social training as well as grants to schools to address specific needs identified by school-based management committees;
- health services with a focus on maternal, newborn and child health, nutrition, psycho-social support and mental health, as well as mobile clinics in communities in which health facilities have been destroyed.
I have written about some of the World Bank’s past efforts toward eradicating polio in the Rotarian Economist blog, including an innovative buy-down mechanism through which the World Bank partnered with Rotary, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Center for Disease Control and the United Nations Foundation to finance polio eradication in Nigeria. Other posts have talked about World Bank investments with polio components in Pakistan, Yemen, and Nigeria.
The needs in Nigeria’s northeast are enormous. Let’s hope that the financing provided by the World Bank and other development partners will help eradicate polio, support development, and make a major difference in the life of those affected by the conflict.
About the author: Quentin Wodon is a lead economist at the World Bank. He holds PhDs in economics and in theology and religious studies, and has taught at universities in Europe and the U.S. He is currently President of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C. He is also author of the Rotarian Economist blog at www.rotarianeconomist.com.