Deep inside the sprawling HEAL Africa Hospital complex in the Eastern Congolese city of Goma is a small ward where women recover from injuries they suffered during complicated births and violent sexual attacks. When I entered, I first saw Muwakeso, a fragile-looking elderly woman sitting on a chair next to a bed. It took me a moment to realize that she wasn’t the patient, but rather her 3-year-old granddaughter Sakina, who was curled up into a tiny mound under a hospital sheet on the bed.
Sakina was heavily sedated to numb the pain after the second of three major surgeries she underwent to reconstruct parts of her lower body following a horrific attack about a year ago. Muwakeso recalls five men in civilian clothes approaching her house and beating her. Before she lost consciousness she heard Sakina screaming. The young girl was raped, but Muwaseko doesn’t know by how many men, and Sakina is unable to say.
“You don’t know what it’s like when you can’t feed your children for three days,” said Khaled Ali, a day laborer from the Yemeni city of Taiz. “I’ve lost my job, and I’ve sold my wife’s gold just to pay the rent. I am scared, what else should I expect in the coming days?” he continues. “Imagine! We’ve had to eat leaves from the trees to survive.”
On International Refugee Day (June 20th), the world was focused on the plight of the 60 million and rising number of displaced people. As the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire put it, “No one leaves home, unless home is the mouth of a shark”. But there are also millions who are unable to escape, lacking the means or due to fears of bigger sharks further afield. Meanwhile, their home is being brutalized by violence and reconfigured to fit some ideological straightjacket. They may not be geographically displaced, but these people are victims too. Especially when they are children, whose schools and socializing processes are radically transformed to conform to the new regime.
In what has been called one of the biggest refugee crises in history, over half of Syria’s population has been displaced over the past four years. Neighboring countries have become home to millions of Syrian refugees.
“I went to Turkey with low expectations, thinking I will meet with angry kids who had got used to the fact they’re ‘refugees,’ said Middle East tech entrepreneur Moe Ghashim, on his first visit to Reyhanli, Turkey. He was there as part of leadership pilot from Karam Foundation, a non-profit supporting Syrian refugee schools.
A young Palestinian participating in a violence prevention session during a recent World Bank Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience (GSURR) staff retreat, reminisced that not that long ago the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the only “hot-spot” in the Middle East. Now, the region is a complex mix of insurrection, armed conflict, political upheaval and displacement. Even for him, unbundling and explaining the drivers and implications of these dynamics can be overwhelming – and a full-time job.
Increasingly, development actors are asked to take on this task, yet many of the World Bank’s standard analytical approaches are not suitable for this kind of complexity. Meanwhile, academics including Ben Ramalingam (Aid on the Edge of Chaos), Thomas Carothers (Development Aid Confronts Politics) and Lant Pritchet (Escaping Capability Traps Through Problem-driven Adaptive Iteration) all highlight the dangers of external intervention in these “difficult operating environments” without sufficient understanding of the underlying context.
Ongoing work over the last few years in the Bank’s GSURR Global Practice, completed together with the Fragility Conflict and Violence (FCV) Group, has focused on in-depth analysis of why and how particular countries descend into conflict, the impact of violence, and the factors that can build resilience against these shocks. Some 25 of these “fragility assessments” have been completed and they are all part of an effort to strengthen the overall understanding of the “context complexity” in these countries.
Four years after the fall of Libya’s former ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, the post-revolutionary conflict in the country continues. And, as it does, young people—like all Libyans—struggle to make their voices heard. What do they want to say?
Over the past twenty years, Sub-Saharan Africa has grown at an impressive rate, roughly 4.3% per year. Growth may slow to 4% in 2015, but then moderately pick up in 2016. Poverty has been falling from 57% to 48% between 1990 and 2010, although there is still much room for improvement. Despite this, conflict and subsequent fragility have been an ongoing thorn in the side of African development. In 2014 alone there were more than 4,500 clashes between armed groups and more than 4,000 instances of armed violence against civilians. Even in the absence of active conflicts, many countries carry the scars of violent struggles from the past as they seek to grow.
What causes conflict? How can conflicts be effectively avoided and interrupted? How does conflict affect trade, education, health, and infrastructure? What is the role of the state and of international partners in all this?
As fighting continues in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, the number of refugees and internally displaced persons stands at 15-16 million—a number that is unprecedented and growing. The displaced are mainly in seven countries (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, and Turkey), with significant numbers seeking refuge in Europe and smaller numbers going everywhere from Oman to Somalia.