A new report from the World Bank is warning that the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is threatening the hard-earned gains in health and education over the past decade, especially in poorer countries.
Reports reveal that investing in human capital, the knowledge, skills and health that people accumulate during their lifetime, are essential to unlocking a child’s potential and improving economic growth in any country.
The World Bank Group 2020 Human Capital Index includes health and education data for 174 countries, including the Caribbean, which covers 98 percent of the world’s population, by March 2020, providing a pre-pandemic basis on children’s health and education.
The analysis shows that pre-pandemic, most countries had made steady progress in building children’s human capital, with the biggest strides being made in low-income countries. Despite this progress, and even before the effects of the pandemic, a child born in a typical country can expect to reach only 56 percent of their potential human capital, compared to a benchmark of full education and full health .
The pandemic jeopardizes decades of progress in building human capital, including improvements in health, survival rates, school enrollment and reducing delays, said World Bank Group President David Malpass.
He said the economic impact of the pandemic has been particularly profound for women and the most disadvantaged families, leaving them very vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty.
Protecting and investing in people is vital as countries work to lay the groundwork for sustainable, inclusive recovery and future growth, he added.
The report notes that due to the impact of pandemics, most of the more than one billion children have been out of school and may lose, on average, half a year of schooling, adjusted to learning, turning into significant monetary losses. The data also show significant disruptions to essential health services for women and children, with many children losing essential vaccines.
The 2020 Human Capital Index also presents a ten-year picture of the evolution of human capital performance from 2010 to 2020, finding improvements in all regions where data are available, and at all income levels.
These were mainly due to improvements in health, reflected in better child and adult survival rates and reduced dizziness, as well as an increase in school enrollment. This progress is now at risk due to the global pandemic.
The analysis reveals that the results of human capital for girls are on average higher than for boys. However, this has not translated into comparable opportunities to use human capital in the labor market: on average, employment levels are 20 percentage points lower for women than for men, with a wider gap in many countries and regions.
Moreover, the pandemic is exacerbating the risks of gender-based violence, child marriage, and adolescent pregnancy, all of which further reduce learning and empowerment opportunities for women and girls.
Today, hard-earned human capital gains in many countries are at stake. But countries can do more than just work to regain lost progress. To protect and expand past human capital gains, countries need to expand health care and quality among marginalized communities, increase learning outcomes along with school enrollment, and support families in need with tailored social protection measures. on the scale of the COVID-19 crisis, the World Bank noted.
He said he was working closely with governments to develop long-term solutions to protect and invest in people during and after the pandemic:
In Ethiopia, Haiti and Mongolia, the Bank said it has supported the purchase of vital medical equipment, while in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso and Nepal, it is supporting the development of school safety and hygiene protocols while working with water supply, sanitation, and teams. of hygiene to provide basic elements of sanitation and hygiene.
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