GENEVA, Switzerland, March 7, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — IOM launched a cash-for-work street cleaning project with local youths in the 3rd district (arondissement) of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR) this week.
The 3rd district is one of the last areas in Bangui where Muslims and Christians continue to live in relative harmony, despite intense pressure from armed groups. The goal of the pilot project is to build and strengthen social cohesion and support the local economy.
The cleaning crews have already made a noticeable improvement in the PK5 market area; large piles of street garbage have been removed and drains have been cleared in preparation for the rainy season. Initial feedback from the community has been very positive.
The youths are divided into five cleaning crews of ten people each, with a mix of Christians and Muslims, men and women. The 50 local youths represent all 29 neighborhoods of the district. The first group of 50 will work for a two-week period.
One cleaning crewmember, Mohammed, said, “I am excited to be part of this effort. If the program continues in all the neighborhoods I think it will bring peace to Car. I am Central African and Muslim. My father was born here. Our home was destroyed in the violence and my brother was killed. In this program I now work with Christians. We are also neighbors. If there is peace I want to return home. People will return when the situation improves. We lived together before. Why not now? Forgiveness is key.”
Three IOM national staff manage the program on site. IOM social mobilizer for the program Patricia Yassiyo said: “Our role is to bring people together. The income earned helps crew members to feed and support themselves and their families. This increases their sense of self-worth and benefits the local economy and community. The program also contributes to a clean and healthy environment in the 3rd district.”
The participants echo the messages on their T-shirts: “We want peace in the Central African Republic.” Another young man emphasized the importance of the employment opportunity. “This program is also good because it gives us some means to survive and eat,” he said.
Three months after the formal declaration of the crisis, there are some 701,500 internally displaced people in the Car – 276,500 in 62 displacement sites in Bangui and 425,000 outside the capital. Muslims and ethnic minorities have fled most neighborhoods in Bangui.
IOM has already evacuated 6,153 migrants and third country nationals from CAR; 4,621 of those to Chad. It is continuing to register third country nationals in Bangui. Over 2,700 people requesting evacuation have been registered at the Central Mosque and Military Airport Transit Site. The largest groups are from Chad, Senegal, Cameroon and Mali.
IOM is appealing for USD 17.5 million to evacuate stranded migrants and assist communities in need in CAR. It has already allocated USD 3.1 million from its own (MEFM) emergency fund.