There is increasing concern about the worsening security situation in Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique, which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights described on Friday as “desperate”.
UN agencies have warned that civilians – and especially women and children – have endured dreadful human rights violations that include numerous attacks, kidnapping and reported beheadings by armed groups, who have also clashed with government forces.
There are additional humanitarian concerns about Cabo Delgado as it is among the worst affected areas from COVID-19.
“It is paramount that State authorities ensure the protection of civilians inside and outside the conflict-affected areas and that humanitarian agencies are guaranteed safe, unhindered access to deliver life-saving assistance and protection,” said rights chief, Michelle Bachelet. “This is particularly crucial given the risk of cholera and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Since 2017, at least 355,000 people have fled the gas and mineral rich province, where violence has increased in the last two weeks.
In an appeal to all parties, the UN High Commissioner urged all armed actors to take urgent measures to protect civilians.
‘Hiding in the bush’
She pointed out that thousands of people are believed to be trapped in conflict areas, with many “hiding in the bush” for days, amid alleged killings, maiming, looting, destruction of houses and public and religious facilities; abductions and abuses of girls and women; as well as the possible forced recruitment of children.
Because of the difficulty in safely accessing communities, these reports have proved difficult to verify, the High Commissioner’s office noted.
“The situation is desperate both for those trapped in conflict-affected areas, with barely any means of surviving, and for those displaced across the province and beyond”, she said.
Dying while trying to flee
“Those who remain have been left deprived of basic necessities and are at risk of being killed, sexually abused, kidnapped, or forcibly recruited by armed groups. Those that flee may die trying.”
Civilians – including the elderly and those with disabilities – remain trapped in parts of Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Niassa provinces, the agency said, noting that thousands of people have also fled the Muidumbe district after repeated attacks on several villages in the last week.
“Extreme brutality” has also been unleashed on civilians in the Muidumbe district, where schools, health centres, houses and Government facilities have been targeted and destroyed.
Those fleeing have found refuge in Mueda district but more people are expected to flee in anticipation of fresh attacks, said spokesperson Babar Baloch.
He added that others have continued to arrive at Paquitequete beach, in Pemba district, mainly from Macomia, Quissanga and Ibo island.
In the last month, more than 14,300 displaced people have arrived in the provincial capital Pemba.
Bleak beach existence
“Hundreds are living on the beach in precarious conditions and clean drinking water is the most urgent need”, Mr. Baloch said, highlighting a lack of hygiene, sanitation and overcrowding.
To help meet people’s “most basic” requirements”, UNHCR has appealed for $19.2 million.
“People living in these areas whose rights have been violated are entitled to protection and remedy,” Bachelet said. “All alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed by the armed groups and security forces must be thoroughly, independently and transparently investigated by the competent authorities. Those responsible must be held to account.”
World Bank Supports Recovery and Resilience of Rwanda’s COVID-19-Affected Businesses
The World Bank Group today approved $150 million from the International Development Association (IDA)* to help the Government of Rwanda increase access to finance and to support recovery and resilience of businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Access to Finance for Recovery and Resilience (AFIRR) Project also benefits from $25 million in IDA grants, as well as an additional $7.5 million grant from the Global Risk Financing Facility (GRiF), to help enhance business’ access to finance.
“This project is an important contribution to the government’s post-COVID Economic Recovery Plan, promoting investment in priority growth sectors, supporting jobs and reinforcing Rwanda’s financial system’s crisis preparedness.” said Rolande Pryce, World Bank Country M anager. “The AFIRR project provides significant resources to help further capitalize the Economic Recovery Fund coupled with enhanced support programs to improve firms’ capacity and remove barriers to access to finance. It provides a suite of instruments that strengthen the existing recovery ecosystem ranging from financial instruments to adjustment mechanisms that include innovative risk mitigation solutions.”
The project will provide financing targeting affected businesses to facilitate refinancing of existing debt obligations, provide working capital, and support investments for business adaptation and growth through the provision of longer-term sources of finance. This will be complemented by risk sharing instruments, including a partial credit guarantee scheme and a bridge loan and insurance facility, to increase access to finance for underserved segments, such as micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs). In addition, the project will provide targeted technical assistance to firms, participating financial institutions, and government implementing agencies, to address existing constraints for increasing uptake of the Economic Recovery Fund.
“Interventions under the project will help businesses to continue to operate and adapt to the post-COVID-19 environment. They will also provide a lifeline to firms in growth-potential sectors that find it difficult to access financing from financial institutions; this will contribute to preserving jobs and mitigating loss of otherwise productive firms that can help drive economic recovery” said Brice Gakombe, World Bank Financial Sector Specialist, and Task Team Leader of the project.
In addition to providing financing, the AFIRR project will bolster the capacity of key government and private sector stakeholders on the technical aspects of the financing and risk-sharing instruments, as well as disaster risk financing principles. As women were hardest hit by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the project focuses on increasing the share of women-inclusive enterprises able to access financing under the liquidity and financing facility and through targeted training to address gender specific constraints for MSMEs as well as improve outreach in underserved segments.
The AFIRR project will be co-financed in the amount of $100 million by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), of which Rwanda is a non-regional member. It is AIIB’s first investment in Rwanda.
Sierra Leone Receives World Bank Support to Strengthen Education Service Delivery
Sierra Leone will receive $6.85 million in additional financing to support the COVID-19 education response in the country. Funded by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) under the Free Education Project, the financing will support activities to ensure school safety and strengthen education service delivery including continuous distance education and accelerated learning. It will also support sustaining effective Government operations, planning, and policies during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
“As an alternate board member of the GPE Board, Sierra Leone continues to play a leading role in the Partnership to implement programs that promote accessible quality education for all,” said Hon. David Sengeh, Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education for Sierra Leone. “In the COVID-19 era, we need to think outside the box to ensure that widening inequities do not further push our most vulnerable populations backward. That is the focus of this additional financing. Even as the Ebola Viral Disease has been recently recorded in the sub-region, we will be able to use the same interventions for continuous learning should the disease ever return to Sierra Leone.”
The financing, which was approved by the World Bank Board of Executive Director on February 5 and became effective on May 26, 2021, is aligned with the Government’s education priorities and strategies, including those outlined in the COVID-19 Education Emergency Response Plan and the World Bank’s Country Partnership Framework for Sierra Leone, specifically with its emphasis on the importance of investing in human development.
There is an implementation partnership arrangement with an NGO Consortium led by Save the Children, partnering with Handicap International (operating under the name Humanity and Inclusion), Plan International Sierra Leone, Concern Worldwide, Foundation for Rural and Urban Transformation, Focus 1000, and Street Child of Sierra Leone. This partnership will help the Government deliver activities rapidly, focusing more on community engagement, and reaching the most marginalized and deprived groups.
“This additional financing will help the Government to cover the costs associated with expanded activities relating to the COVID-19 response as well as enhancing the impact of the Free Education Project in responding to the challenges in the education sector,” said Gayle Martin, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone. “The funding will also help address commitment toward achieving a more inclusive approach to education, increasing the retention of girls and improving the learning environment for children with disabilities.”
The Free Education Project is financed by a $66 million grant, with $50 million from the World Bank and $16 million from development partners. It will help to address key challenges in the education sector. It will contribute to achieving the Government’s larger strategic objectives in the sector while supporting analytical and advisory services associated with monitoring and evaluation, technical assistance, and research and studies.
Mozambique: Violence continues in Cabo Delgado, as agencies respond to growing needs
Civilians continue to flee armed conflict and insecurity in northern Mozambique, more than two months after militants attacked the coastal city of Palma, located in Cabo Delgado province, UN agencies reported on Friday.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reports that some 70,000 people have fled the city since 24 March, bringing overall displacement to nearly 800,000.
People have been escaping daily for districts further south, or to neighbouring Tanzania. Thousands more are reported to be stranded in areas around Palma, with restricted humanitarian access.
Shots fired, houses burned
“Those fleeing have told UNHCR staff that the situation in Palma remains very unstable, with regular gunfire at night and torching of houses”, Spokesperson Babar Baloch said during a briefing in Geneva.
UNHCR and partners recently assisted people living in dire conditions in remote areas around Palma, distributing relief items to some 10,000 who have been displaced.
The agency continues to advocate for internally displaced people to receive protection and assistance, and for those seeking safety in Tanzania, to access asylum.
Forced back into danger
Mozambican authorities report that many people attempting to cross the river, which marks the border between the two countries, have been forcibly returned. More than 9,600 have been pushed back since January, with 900 removals occurring over a two-day period this week.
“UNHCR reiterates its call for those fleeing the conflict to have access to territory and asylum, and, in particular, for the principle of non-refoulement (no forced return) to be respected”, said Mr. Baloch. “Refugees must not be forced back into danger.”
‘A children’s crisis’
The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said needs are enormous in Cabo Delgado, located in a region that has barely recovered from a deadly cyclone in 2019.
In the wake of the attack in Palma, some 2,000 children have no idea of the whereabouts of their parents, or even if they are alive, agency Spokesperson James Elder told journalists.
“What is happening in Cabo Delgado is a children’s crisis – an emergency on top of an emergency – a deadly cocktail from the impacts of climate change, conflict and COVID-19”, he said.
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