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Tuesday, 1 May, 2001, 03:10 GMT 04:10 UK
World Bank targets poverty, Aids
Brazil inner city
Attention to poverty in countries such as Brazil
By BBC News Online's David Schepp in Washington

International finance officials have wrapped up a three-day meeting in Washington pledging to fight poverty and the spread of infectious disease in the poorest countries.

They vowed to set up a multi-billion dollar war chest to buy cheap drugs to combat HIV/Aids in places such as Africa where the disease has taken a severe toll.

Ministers noted that combating poverty among middle-income countries, such as Brazil and Argentina, remains a priority because the largest number of poor live in those countries.

Yashwant Sinha
Yashwant Sinha: World Bank has important role
Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Development Committee, Indian Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha said the bank has a very important role, including increasing further access to world markets.

Finance officials view trade as one way poor nations can build wealth and improve living conditions. The recent worldwide economic slowdown is viewed as an impediment to furthering international trade.

Mr Sinha also stressed the bank and the fund need to better coordinate efforts with other donor agencies.

In a statement the committee stressed "the need to move more rapidly... in particular to help low-income countries".

HIV and Aids

Ministers also welcomed the rapid growth of the attention being paid to HIV/Aids in the year since the committee had described the epidemic as a grave threat to development progress in many areas of the world, especially in Africa.


A well-directed programme on Aids in now possible

World Bank president James Wolfensohn
Aside from the comments made by finance officials, in recent days US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has stated his support for initiatives to improve aid to countries dealing with the burden of communicable diseases that also include tuberculosis and malaria.

James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, said "a well-directed programme on Aids in now possible", adding that he would be surprised if such an initiative failed to materialise.

Mr Wolfensohn reiterated the bank's commitment to aid in solving health concerns, saying: "Our pledge is real and we're doing it."

The Development Committee, established in 1974, helps build consensus among governments on development issues. It advises World Bank and IMF officials on economic development in poor countries.

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See also:

29 Apr 01 | Business
World Bank's plea for poorest
30 Apr 01 | Business
IMF seeks to avert crises
14 Sep 00 | Business
The IMF's pragmatist
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