The World Bank: A ‘global leader’ in maternal health?

A mother with her newborn at a post-natal ward of a hospital in Sri Lanka. Photo by: Dominic Sansoni / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

The World Bank needs to re-evaluate its reproductive health strategies if it is to become the “global leader” in maternal and child health efforts that it claims to be, a gender equality and social justice expert says.

A closer look at World Bank investments in maternal and child health shows why a re-evaluation is necessary, Elizabeth Arend argues in a blog post on the Guardian. Arend is a program coordinator at Gender Action, an organization advocating gender justice and women’s rights in international financial institutions.

Arend says the $96 million the bank spent on maternal health projects in 2011 represents only 0.2 percent of its overall budget for that year. The bulk of this aid was provided as loans instead of grants, mostly to already indebted sub-Saharan African countries, she adds.

There is also a “striking mismatch” between the bank’s priority countries and the recipients’ maternal mortality rates, Arend says. Further, the World Bank’s investments neglect interventions to address unsafe abortions and maternal injury, she adds. 

“The World Bank must re-evaluate its strategies for reducing maternal mortality if it is ever going to live up to its claim of being a ‘global leader’ in improving reproductive health,” Arend says, urging the bank to give more aid as grants, among other changes.

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.