UNRA Executive Director, Allen Kagina has warned against employment of children as well as incidents of defilement during the implementation of the 105km Koboko–Yumbe–Moyo Road.
Kagina together with a delegation that also includes the Country Rep of World Bank in Uganda, Tony Thompson is visiting the project area.
During the field visit in Moyo district, the team held extensive stakeholder consultations on the aspects of the project.
“Children must be in school. We need to hand over this country to someone. It’s those children that we’re going to hand it over to. We must protect them,” Kagina told the local leaders in Moyo and other stakeholders.
She appealed to them to support UNRA in protection of children in implementation.
“We want to work very closely with you to make sure that our girls are not defiled and they are not under age workers on the project,” she added.
The call could be part of UNRA’s bid to ensure all safeguards are kept this time, to guard against the reoccurrence of the 2016 case where World Bank canceled its funding for a road project in Western Uganda.
The World Bank cancelled funding for the 66km Kamwenge-Fort Portal road and suspended support for two more schemes, over allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct by construction workers and mistreatment of staff working on the project.
Environmental concerns, reflected in the layer of dust coating a nearby banana plantation were also raised.
“The multiple failures we’ve seen in this project – on the part of the World Bank, the government of Uganda and a government contractor – are unacceptable,” the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim said au the time.
“It is our obligation to properly supervise all investment projects to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are protected in our work. In this case, we did not. I am committed to making sure we do everything in our power – working with other stakeholders – first to fully review the circumstances of this project and then to quickly learn from our and others’ failures so they do not happen again,” Jim Yong Kim added.
In Moyo on Thursday, Kagina noted that it is important that locals who are of working age are considered for employment on the project. She said UNRA will engage the contractor to ensure those working on the road are sourced from the area.
Government says once upgraded, the road will facilitate refugee settlements in the area and open up West Nile region to business opportunities.
Government of Uganda through UNRA earmarked the development of Koboko–Yumbe–Moyo road under the proposed World Bank grant, to accelerate socio-economic development in the region and promote international trade with S.Sudan and DRC.
According to World Bank, the Koboko–Yumbe–Moyo road is a vital link in supporting refugee livelihoods since West Nile is the gateway to Uganda for the refugees from S.Sudan and DR.Congo.
“The international community has recognised the generous works and burden you’re carrying in hosting refugees,” Tony Thompson said while commenting on World Bank’s commitment to finance the construction of the road.
“We have been consulting with other development partners and we don’t want to do the things they are already planning to do”.
He was responding to appeals from local leaders to extend the scope of the project to Laropi which the African Development Bank is considering funding.
The team met with civil society groups and law enforcement teams in Moyo district on measures to ensure mitigation of potential risks including; Gender Based Violence; and sexual exploitation during project implementation.
World Bank has provided up to USD 500m in grants to build schools, health centres, and provide clean water to communities hosting refugees in Uganda.
“USD 120M sounds like a lot of money but building roads is very expensive. Our challenge is how UNRA can use this grant money in the most efficient and effective way. We have 4 months to prepare and take this project to World Bank Board to secure the funding,” Thompson said.
“We have been talking to the government and UNRA for a year and have heard of horror stories of trucks getting stuck, and people sleeping on the road because it is not fit for purpose. With this investment, we want to change that”.