New World Bank Project Will Help Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Africa’s Great Lakes Region

June 26, 2014

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2014—The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors has approved US$107 million in financial grants to the countries of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Rwanda to provide integrated health and counseling services, legal aid, and economic opportunities, to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). The project will also strengthen health services for poor and vulnerable women in Africa’s Great Lakes region.

The Great Lakes Emergency SGBV and Women’s Health Project is the first World Bank project in Africa with a major focus on offering  integrated services to  SGBV survivors. The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), an intergovernmental organization with 12 member states, will also receive support to further adopt a regional policy response to  SGBV. In addition, the project will  expand access to much-needed maternal and reproductive health services in the DRC and Burundi.

The project’s grants, which are financed by the International Development Association (IDA*), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, will benefit over 641,000 women and girls, of whom half a million live in the DRC. The DRC will receive about US$74 million, while Burundi and Rwanda will receive about US$15 million each, and the ICGLR US$3 million. The project will support and complement the ongoing efforts of these governments and their partners, including UN agencies and NGOs operating in these countries.

“I’ve seen first-hand our desperate need to support thousands of vulnerable women and girls in the Great Lakes region who are survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, and also to help governments as they tackle persistently high levels of mothers who perish in childbirth,“ said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa. “This new project is part of our World Bank Group’s Great Lakes Regional Initiative for peace, security and economic development; and through it, we will work relentlessly to improve the lives of women and girls whose personal safety, health, and futures have been tragically compromised.”

In May 2013, President Jim Kim announced US$1 billion in new World Bank Group regional support for the countries of the Great Lakes while visiting the war-torn area with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Delivery of this support is on target. The new project reflects the institution’s commitment to support the three countries as they reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity by focusing especially on women, who are among the most vulnerable groups in the region.

Pervasive conflict has taken its toll on women in Eastern DRC, where security remains fragile and public services are weak. In Burundi and Rwanda, violence against women remains an important issue.  Burundi has made progress in securing peace, but poverty levels remain high and gender based violence is widespread. Rwanda has made dramatic strides since the mid-1990s and plans to redouble its efforts to confront violence against women and children.

The project will strengthen health services, often the main entry point for SGBV survivors seeking help after their ordeal. In Eastern DRC it will support community-based organizations to provide both immediate and longer-term support to survivors. Moreover, it will also support a  regional policy approach to SGBV endorsed by the Great Lakes Region Heads of State (in the Kampala Declaration), including bolstering ICGLR’s capacity to ensure knowledge-sharing, research, and capacity-building beyond the three countries.

 “As part of the project, all three countries will take steps to promote gender equality, behavioral change and violence prevention,” said Pia Peeters, Senior Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and co-task team leader for the project. “The project will also help empower SGBV survivors who are often in desperate need of work while coping with their trauma and isolation.” 

In cross border areas, which are home to refugees and internally displaced people, the project will help prevent SGBV. “Generating new knowledge about what works is critical to better serving survivors and preventing further violence,” Peeters emphasized.

In the DRC and Burundi, the project will boost access to antenatal care, skilled midwives, and modern family planning.  “Health services offer an opportunity for early identification and referral of women at risk of violence, or recovering from SGBV so there are important synergies in investing in better quality support to survivors of such violence as well as improving maternal health care, said Miriam Schneidman, Lead Health Specialist at the World Bank and task team leader of the project

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