Our plane landed on an almost dirt airstrip, precariously carved out from among the bushes in Uganda’s northern District of Adjumani, which has a border with South Sudan to the northwest. The district is home to some 227,000 refugees, who make up close to 60% of the total population. Immediately after disembarking, we drove off on a dirt road, flanked by tall, green corn fields, banana palm and mango trees, which created a sea of vegetation – parted here and there by narrow lanes leading to mud huts. As we approached the district’s center, I tried to spot the usual tell-tale signs of refugee quarters, such as fences or other kind of demarcations.
There were none.
Her tears remain vivid in my mind. She was one of so many young Nigerian kids that we met while on mission in North East Nigeria. They and the rest of their communities were desperate for hope and livelihood. I was part of a World Bank inter-disciplinary crisis response/stabilization and operational support team that recently visited the region, which remains the home base for the Boko Haram insurgency.
Last week, I represented the World Bank Group at the United Nations Security Council on the famine response in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. In these four countries, more than 20 million people face famine or the risk of famine over the coming six months, and urgent action is needed to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
The Security Council may appear to be an unusual place to find a development institution such as the World Bank, especially regarding a humanitarian crisis like famine.
I had the opportunity recently to participate in the Third Edition of the World Reconstruction Conference, where I was reminded once again of a sobering reality – that we live in an increasingly interconnected world where multiple crises overlap in complex ways, from the impacts of climate change to a spike in violent conflict, historically high levels of forced displacement, and the worst famine in 70 years.
At the same time, I was encouraged by how the international community is coming together, breaking silos to forge a comprehensive response. While the Conference focused on the role of post-crisis recovery and reconstruction for resilience building and disaster risk reduction, partners recognized the complexity of this effort. The joint communique noted that conflict and fragility require special attention as it can aggravate the impact of natural disasters and make the recovery process more challenging.