CAR

Fighting COVID-19 through the community violence reduction programme

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MARIA KABATANYA

When the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) started to make inroads globally and the demand for face masks, soap and other hygienic products rose, opportunity arose for 64 beneficiaries of the MINUSCA Community Violence Reduction (CVR) programme in the Central African Republic.

CVR projects target areas of local conflict or at risk of conflict (hotspots) to create space for dialogue – through CVR activities for former members of armed groups and their communities. The programme is implemented in partnership with local authorities to promote conflict resolution, the protection of civilians as well as peace – all core elements of the MINUSCA mandate.

All field offices with CVR activities – in Bangui, Bouar, Bria, Bossangoa, Bangassou and Kaga-Bandoro – were mobilized to respond to the global pandemic, in coordination with local Covid-19 response committees and the World Health Organization (WHO). CVR projects offer beneficiaries short-term vocational training in a profession of their choice; support for the start-up of income-generating activities; cash-for-work and organize weapon collection initiatives as well as provide civic education.

Apprentice and graduate beneficiaries are involved in the production of essential items to respond to the crisis. “Tailors make masks; beneficiaries of the soap factory project make soap; ironworkers and carpenters make bucket holders for handwashing; masons and carpenters contribute to the rehabilitation of isolation centers for patients artists produces songs and skits to raise awareness in their communities,” said Adeline Gouet Tokalo, MINUSCA Associate Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) Officer. The finished products are handed over to local authorities for distribution or put on the market for sale. Beneficiaries receive start-up kits for income-generating activities at the end of their training.

Giving up weapons, learning a new trade and contributing to the fight against the coronavirus through the making of masks has given Nassira Zakaria, an apprentice seamstress at the DDR site in Kaga Bandoro, a new lease of life. “I didn't have a job but MINUSCA’s CVR programme is making me an asset for my country," she said.

Débonnaire Koueoungbo, a master dressmaker and trainer, takes pride in his mentoring role: "MINUSCA proposed producing masks in large quantities. I am happy to guide these future dressmakers in learning practical skills on producing items to protect against the spread of coronavirus."

In Bria (east), the CVR programme's sewing and soap factories have produced 600 pieces of soap and 200 protective masks for the local population.

According to Adeline Gouet Tokalo, the DDR team conducts regular awareness-raising sessions on stopping Covid-19 – such as in Bouar (west), in the localities of Kounde, Bingue, Foh and Niem Yelewa. Local authorities in Baoro received three preventive kits, including 190 pairs of gloves, 177 masks, six buckets with taps, 24 kg of bleach, 15 hydro-alcoholic gels, eight liquid soaps and nine hand towels.

In Kaga-Bandoro, a CVR team of 30 men and women who have been trained is going door-to-door spreading the word on combating the pandemic ; educational posters, leaflets and radio sets have been distributed to enable the local population keep abreast of government measures on the response to the coronavirus.

Still in Bria, the DDR team started construction work on a Covid-19 isolation and treatment centre to support the pandemic preparedness and response plan – thanks to 20 CVR project beneficiaries composed of masons and carpenters (including four women).

This year alone, 3314 ex-combatants and community members have benefitted from the MINUSCA Community Violence Reduction Programme since its inception in 2017 – an all-important step in the peace and stabilization process in the Central African Republic.