Published on Africa Can End Poverty

Community infrastructure supports lives and national reconciliation in Central African Republic

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Community infrastructure supports lives and national reconciliation in Central African Republic The Serebanda bridge in Kaga Bandoro, in the North-Center of the country - Credit: J.S. Alima / UNOPS

Displacement due to conflict is on the rise around the world. In the Central African Republic (CAR) and elsewhere, violence – compounded by the devastating impacts of climate change – is driving people away from their homes. After fighting escalated between various armed groups in 2013, some 60,000 people fled the villages surrounding the northwestern town of Paoua. “The killings drove us to flee,” recalls Erica Lemdja, “without clothes, shoes, nothing.”

Globally, the World Bank estimates that 60% of the world’s poorest will live amidst fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV) by 2030. CAR is one of the poorest and most fragile countries in the world – in spite of its abundant natural resources. According to the recently published CAR Poverty Assessment, almost 70% of the population live below $1.90 a day, and 90% of the population live in a household that had experienced a shock, with armed conflict being the predominant factor (54%), followed by health (48%), household income (38%), food prices (27%), and climate (27%).

Since 2017, thanks to an improved security situation, the World Bank’s Service Delivery and Support to Communities Affected by Displacement Project (abbreviated as PACAD in French), has brought together the government and UNOPS to deliver infrastructure to transform local communities across CAR. UNOPS is the UN agency with a mandate in infrastructure and procurement and a World Bank partner, particularly in FCV contexts. CAR’s Ministry of Humanitarian Action and Solidarity and National Reconciliation has led the project’s implementation, to reach its most vulnerable citizens in the capital Bangui and far beyond.

Community infrastructure supports lives and national reconciliation in Central African Republic
Community infrastructure supports lives and national reconciliation in Central African Republic The Bambari bus terminal complex, symbol of unity in the 3rd most important town in the country - Credit: J.S. Alima / UNOPS

PACAD's achievements not only sustainably meet infrastructure needs, but also those in terms of job creation. In addition to community infrastructure, the project uses direct cash transfers to help displaced people and host communities rebuild their lives and livelihoods. Labor-intensive public work programs have created 119,575 person-days of work – 27% of which were completed by women – primarily through the rehabilitation of road networks.

At its core, this project enhances access to basic services for those most in need, especially people affected by displacement. In consultation with the targeted communities and through a participative approach, four local development plans were established, enabling the identification, selection, and validation of infrastructure investments for the towns of Bambari, Kaga-Bandoro, Paoua, Bangassou, and the capital Bangui. This has brought life-changing results. A new bridge in Kaga-Bandaro connects two districts of the town and establishes safe access to a livestock market, and with it, economic opportunities. A new school in Pauoa for children displaced by conflict enables them to reach the site without crossing a perilous airfield. Across these towns, solar panels and batteries are providing access to clean electricity to support young people’s educational outcomes and their safety.

Overall, the PACAD reaches 7 cities, some far from the capital. Take Bambari, a market town over a six-hour drive from Bangui. There the project has delivered an expanded health clinic, a bus station, and a municipal park. This local infrastructure is critical to underpin the future prosperity of the community. The expansion of the health clinic facilitated by the project has allowed health professionals to provide better care, accommodate more patients, and offer extended postpartum support. As one nurse puts it, “Today, I can receive up to 45 pregnant women per day for visits, in addition to daily follow-ups.” With continuous water and electricity supply through the installation of a generator, the health center now operates with enhanced efficiency and reliability. Beneficiary testimonials collectively convey a sense of positive change. They emphasize the benefits that extend from the clinic to the individuals it serves, creating a healthier and more resilient community.

Meanwhile, the municipal park was arranged to provide a daily gathering place for local associations and groups, and as a new point of connection for residents. The park has become a space for community reconciliation.

In addition to public amenities, the project also installed 165 solar streetlights and repaired roads to help connect communities and make them safer for all. Better roads aren’t just a path from one place to another; they pave the way for better livelihoods. Solar streetlights can go a long way. They are not just good for the planet; they also promote safety and security. These are just some of the indirect benefits PACAD is bringing to displaced communities. In a country where access to electricity is one of the lowest in the world, it is common to see students gather around a streetlight to study at night.

Delivering community infrastructure and basic services in remote areas is at the core of the partnership between the government, the World Bank, UNOPS, and other UN agencies. Community infrastructure goes beyond a matter of livelihoods; it’s also a matter of local pride. Victor Bissekoin, a community leader of the Ouaka in the town of Bambari, summed it up: “Thanks to this project, the government has succeeded in bringing back many people, giving them their place again.”

As the project’s implementation period comes to an end, its results are coming into full view. Among its target populations, PACAD has contributed to a reduction in poverty, local economic development across recipient communities, and, as a result, a greater sense of national reconciliation. 

Athanase Danhossou

Social Protection Specialist

Fred Frippiat

Head of Programme for UNOPS Multi-Country Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Joachim Boko

Senior Social Protection Specialist

Oghenesuvwe Kokoricha

Senior at Southern Methodist University

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