DATA BRIEFS: Progress and Disparity
Focusing aid on the basics
During the 1990s, a broad understanding has developed that access for all to basic social services is vital for reducing poverty. These essentials comprise basic health care, including reproductive health, basic education, nutrition programmes and safe water supply and sanitation. Yet millions of children are deprived of their right to these building blocks for a brighter future, destined instead to live and die in poverty.
Development assistance is one key element in improving access to basic social services in poor countries and forms a linchpin of the 20/20 Initiative, which urges governments of both donor and developing countries to allocate 20% of their official development assistance and national budgets, respectively, to basic social services. However, it has been difficult to pinpoint what proportion of aid goes to the basics.
Now studies of 16 countries, conducted by UNICEF and UNDP, throw new light on this question. They found, for example, that in 7 of the 16 countries reviewed, 10% or less of aid goes to fund basic social services. In Kenya, Mali and Namibia, on the other hand, the levels are 20% or more. Another finding is that levels of aid to the basics can vary widely over time (shifts that are not indicated in the table). In Niger, for example, the share rose from 6% in 1992 to 18% in 1995, while in Peru it dropped from 22% in 1994 to 5% in 1996. These studies are helping reveal areas where greater resources should be focused, and further research will broaden this knowledge base.