July 11, 2006

Wolfowitz visits schools, clinics in north Ethiopia

By Lesley Wroughton

BAHIR DAR, Ethiopia (Reuters) - World Bank President Paul
Wolfowitz toured schools and clinics on Tuesday in the lush
northern Amhara region of Ethiopia where foreign donors plan to
plow aid directly into local communities.

The World Bank approved the Protection of Basic Services
project this year when donors said they would resume work in
Ethiopia after cutting direct aid because of the government's
crackdown on the opposition after post-election violence.

The project involves making aid available to local
government for basic services like water, health, education and
roads that benefit the poor, sidestepping political tension at
the national level after last year's bitterly contested polls.

It is Wolfowitz's second visit to Africa since he took the
reins of the World Bank, Africa's biggest development lender.
He will break his the seven-nation tour to attend the G8 summit
of rich nations at the weekend in St Petersburg, Russia.

There he plans to remind leaders of the pledges they made
to Africa last year of increased aid, trade and debt relief.

Northern Ethiopia is currently in the middle of its annual
rainy season that has turned markets and roads into thick mud.

Wolfowitz's visit is focused on the need to ensure that aid
is delivered to Ethiopia's poorest and that local officials are
held accountable through transparent budget systems.


At schools Wolfowitz visited, teachers complained of a lack
of basic teaching materials, particularly books, and chronic
overcrowding of classrooms. At a primary school built by the
local community, Wolfowitz said he would ensure that teachers
are equipped with science kits and text books.

At a nearby local clinic, women and their babies waited in
line to be treated, mostly for malaria or respiratory
infections. There are only nurses and no doctors.

Wolfowitz later stopped to talk to farmers and tried his
hand at using a plow drawn by oxen, declaring after several
tries: "I think I will stick to my day job."

"We want to work with you to help with education and
health," Wolfowitz later told a group of local district
councilors. "With peace and democracy and help from the World
Bank this country can grow," he said.

He asked how the local budget was divided and what say
local people had in decisions on where the money was spent,
before discussing the prospects for local elections due next

Later he was briefed on a proposed new World Bank
investment plan around Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile
and Ethiopia's largest lake, that would develop agro-industry,
tourism, fisheries and hydropower projects.