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Congolese refugees reluctant to return to villages following North Kivu conflict – UN

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03The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), says about 10,000 displaced Congolese refugees are skeptical and reluctant to return to their villages after they had escaped the conflict in North Kivu following fighting between the national army and M23 rebels.

The refugees had managed to flee across the border as conflict erupted last week in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with thousands of them fleeing into neighboring Uganda.

But with the situation brought under control and normalcy returned, the government wants the refugees to return to their villages but the people are reluctant fearing for their lives, according to the UN agency.

The UN also noted that apart from the 10,000 refugees already in Uganda, about 36,000 civilians have also been displaced within the DRC due to the ongoing war.

Seka Junior, a resident of Rutshuru,
one of the besieged North Kivu villages, who escaped after the M-23 rebels struck, told the UN that many of the villagers preferred staying in Uganda rather than going back due to the uncertainty of the security situation in the country.

“Many other civilians who didn’t leave the country rushed to Rutshuru, where they found precarious shelter in schools or churches.

“The rebels are still in our villages, it’s too complicated to go back because we can’t live together; there may be other clashes and we will be victims,” he said.

The village of Bunagana in North Kivu was also the location where a UN helicopter crashed on Tuesday, killing all eight peacekeepers on board, with the M-23 rebels blamed for taking down the helicopter.

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No survivors as rebels shoot UN helicopter down in Congo

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A United Nations (UN) helicopter carrying eight peacekeepers and UN observers was on Tuesday shot down by rebels in Congo, leaving no survivors.

The incident, confirmed by the Congolese army, revealed that the helicopter was carrying out reconnaissance for the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo along with another helicopter when it was attacked.

CBS News reported that the M23 rebel group on Monday attacked several villages including Tchanzu, Runyonyi, Ndiza and Tchengerero, according to the army statement.

Reacting to the incident, UN spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, revealed that a search and rescue operation found the wreckage and there were no survivors. “The bodies of the eight men were brought to Goma, eastern Congo’s largest city,” he said.

Dujarric added that “We convey our condolences to the governments and families of the six crew members from Pakistan and the two military staff from Russia and Serbia. An investigation into the circumstances of the crash is underway.”

Even though the main cause of the crash cannot be ascertained, Dujarric confirmed the helicopter was there to monitor the situation where there had been fighting but asked for patience as to the cause of its crash.

In its condolence message, Pakistan’s military issued a statement with the names of the six officers and soldiers on the helicopter, saying they “have embraced martyrdom.”

Report has it that Eastern Congo is prone to insecurity as several armed groups are vying for control of its mineral-rich lands. Last year, six park rangers were killed in a gorilla sanctuary by militiamen battling for control over natural resources and land in the eastern part of Congo.

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World Bank approves $40 million developmental grant for Sierra Leone

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The World Bank on Wednesday approved a $40 million International Development Association (IDA) grant for over 176,000 persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone to support improved access to social safety.

The World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone, Abdu Muwonge, said that the grant was also to support improved access to social safety nets and income generating opportunities for the beneficiaries.

In a statement by Muwonge, the Productive Social Safety Nets and Youth Employment Project will provide consumption support to rural extreme-poor households, introduce a package of economic inclusion services to help build a foundation for transiting extreme-poor households out of poverty.

The World Bank manager to Sierra Leone further explained that the $40 million International Development Association grant will also support youth engagement in rural and urban areas through productive public works, and provide opportunities to urban youth through entrepreneurship grants and training in the country.

The Project will also continue to strengthen the delivery systems and institutional capacity for project management, implementation, and coordination for future implementation of programs related to social protection and jobs in the country, the statement read.

“The social safety net system in Sierra Leone is proving very effective in reaching the poorest families whose situation has been worsened by the negative impact of COVID-19. Cash transfers help poor families to invest in better food, education and preventive health care of their children, thus contributing toward building the human capital of these children,” said Muwonge.

“This financing will build on the existing Social Safety Net project; it will help expand the coverage of the program and contribute toward improving the access of poor households to health and education services, particularly for women, youth and persons with disabilities.”

Sierra Leone has a high proportion of youth who are not in education, employment, or training, with female youth and youth with disabilities the most affected.

The country was one of the first to implement a World Bank-financed cash transfer in response to the onset of COVID-19.

Under the Emergency Cash Transfer (ECT) program, the Government provided one-off cash payments to nearly 65,000 vulnerable informal sector workers in the country.

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