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Agency gives world's poorest loans and insurance - 2005-02-22

Tuesday, 2005, February 22

The poorest people in Africa and Asia are to be given access to home loans and insurance by a development agency to help drag them out of poverty and rebuild their lives after a disaster such as the devastating tsunami.The scheme would go beyond the small loans, known as microcredit and often as little as $US50 ($NZ69) given to farmers and entrepreneurs to set them up in business.
The Aga Khan Development Network said it aimed to expand its work to products including health insurance, education loans and savings accounts to the poorest people.
'Microcredit has helped millions of poor people in developing countries but they remain at the mercy of a death or serious injury of a family member, the loss of a crop or livestock or a natural disaster such as the recent tsunami,' said the Aga Khan, sponsor of the plan and hereditary imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.
'The assets of borrowers, accumulated through great effort over many years, can be destroyed overnight. Families are then forced to make the same difficult climb out of poverty a second or even third time,' he told a news conference at the United Nations.
The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of development agencies working in health, education, culture and rural and economic development, primarily in Asia and Africa.
It includes the Geneva-based non-profit making Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance which will run the new scheme. It did not give details of how much loans and insurance would cost.
Last year, the Aga Khan Development Network lent about $35 million in small loans.
'The poor need access to just about every product and service that people and businesses need in the developed world,' the Aga Khan added.
The plan was praised by World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who attended the news conference and said most of the world's poor could benefit.
'We're going beyond lending $50 to $60 for chickens and sewing machines,' Wolfensohn said.

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