World Bank: Pandemic poses risk to decade of progress in health, education, child survival

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A decade of growth of the Human Capital index, defined by improvements in health, education and child survival rates, faces an unprecedented threat from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic unless nations begin developing long-term protections during and after the crisis ends, the World Bank said on Wednesday.

“The economic impact of the pandemic has been particularly deep for women and the most disadvantaged families, leaving many vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty,” World Bank President David Malpass said in a press release introducing the report.

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“Protecting and investing in people is vital as countries work to lay the foundation for sustainable, inclusive recoveries, and future growth.” The report features the World Bank’s 2020 Human Capital Index, a synthesis of health and education data for 174 countries that cover 98 per cent of the world’s population up to March 2020, the release said.

“The analysis shows that pre-pandemic, most countries had made steady progress in building the human capital of children, with the biggest strides made in low-income countries,” the release said.

Even with those gains, a child born in a typical country could expect to achieve just 56 per cent of their potential human capital, relative to a benchmark of complete education and full health– prior to the pandemic, the release also said.

The World Bank is urging nations to do more than simply attempt to recover lost progress, the release noted.

“To protect and extend earlier human capital gains, countries need to expand health service coverage and quality among marginalised communities, boost learning outcomes together with school enrollments and support vulnerable families with social protection measures adopted to the scale of the COVID-19 crisis,” the release said.

The report committed the World Bank to work with governments to develop long-term solutions that protect and invest in people during and after the pandemic, the release added.

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