Give her clean water ... and you'll give her a healthy future

Oxfam calls on World Bank President to make health and education for the poorest countries a priority

As the new World Bank President is set to open the International Financial Institutions' (IFIs) Annual Meetings, international aid agency Oxfam called on him to put health and education for the poorest countries on top of his agenda.

Robert Zoellick will be opening the meeting and Oxfam urged him to bring results on the ground by working to bring better education and health benefits to the world's poorest.

"The World Bank has a clear role to play to tackle poverty and help countries deliver services that will lift millions out of poverty. The Bank should be working with developing countries to provide free healthcare and education for all their citizens. There is still a need for 6 million more teachers, doctors and nurses in the developing world: this staffing crisis needs to be addressed today", said Elizabeth Stuart of Oxfam International.

"Zoellick has his work cut out from the start. The Bank has been attacked from all sides lately, and now is facing more competition than ever as Africa looks to Beijing rather than Washington. He must act now to build a Bank that delivers poverty reduction rather than the usual blueprint of more privatization and market opening.

Commenting on the Bank's replenishment process, Stuart added: "Donors should fill the Bank's coffers, but need to insist that it radically changes the way it operates. Some 85% of all Bank's loans still require countries to privatize. "

On the climate change debate, Oxfam calls for a clear focus on the need to help the poorest to adapt to an ever changing world.

Stuart: "Poor countries are suffering from increased floods, droughts and other effects of global warming. While rich countries pollute, poor countries pay."

"The Bank should be exploring innovative ways - such as a tax on carbon - to raise the necessary $US50 billion to fight climate change. This must be in addition to current aid promises."

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will see its Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato leave office at the end of the month. De Rato will return to Europe after promising, more than three years ago, to reform the institution.

"Mr de Rato leaves the IMF without having delivered the meaningful reform so vitally needed. The way the Fund is run has to change so that all developing countries, including the poorest, have a voice inside it. What has been suggested so far comes short of the long-overdue reforms that are needed", Stuart said.

"In terms of its credibility, this is the Fund's last chance to prove it can still play a legitimate role in the globalised world, including in the poorest countries. Many countries have already rebelled against the IMF's strictures and the institution needs to change or get used to the sidelines", she concluded.

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