In West Africa, JRS is at work in two insecure countries: Chad and the Central African Republic. Going to Chad in 2004, JRS set up an impressive array of education projects in the east, which is prey to civil war and inter-ethnic tensions that are compounded by the spill-over of the Darfur conflict. In late 2008, JRS went the Central African Republic to offer services with a strong community element in two war-affected provinces, Ouham and Haute Kotto.
The education projects in Chad reach tens of thousands of children and teachers in Sudanese refugee camps, in settlements of internally displaced Chadians, among host communities, returnees and nomads. Apart from running pre-primary, primary and secondary schools, JRS seeks to set quality standards. There is also a programme for the reintegration of former child soldiers.
In the Central African Republic, IDPs and others benefit from education, social services, pastoral ministry, peace-building and advocacy. In September 2011, clashes between rebel groups in Haute Kotto forced JRS to withdraw temporarily.
JRS has been present in West Africa for years, responding to the needs of people forcibly displaced by conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire. JRS West Africa was established in 2001 with a project starting in Guinea in December, as the then Regional Director, Mateo Aguirre SJ, recalls: "We were very keen to start the first food distribution of rice and palm oil so that the refugees could have food on Christmas day". Projects serving IDPs in Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire followed in 2003. These were all places where JRS had worked in the past and where it felt called to return. The JRS intervention was characterised – as is often the case in other regions – by strong collaboration with the local Church, with the indispensable contribution of members of different religious congregations who worked in the camps.
As countries in the region edged towards peace, JRS accompanied the displaced people back home, got involved in reconstruction, and eventually withdrew from Guinea and Liberia. The JRS intervention in Côte d'Ivoire was extended, with a project running from 2008 to 2010, to work with village communities in the post-war north, to repair and improve their primary schools to welcome returnees.
James Stapleton (International Office in Rome)
+39 06 69 868 468
JRS West Africa is one of 10 geographic regions of the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international Catholic organisation sponsored by the Society of Jesus. The regional office in West Africa serves refugee and internally displaced people in Central African Republic (CAR), Chad and Côte d’Ivoire. Services include: education, skills training, vocational training and healthcare. JRS supports the redevelopment of war-torn communities in these areas, including the reconstruction of schools and the reintegration of former child soliders.
Central African Republic: projects suspended and staff evacuated
Yaoundé, 27 March 2013 – JRS staff were forced to evacuate the Central African Republic (CAR) and suspend projects for the second time in three months due to worsening conflict between government forces and the Séleka rebel coalition.
Central African Republic: six schools built in Haute Kotto despite outbreak of conflict
Bria, 26 October 2011 – Despite a sharp increase in violence in the northeastern province of Haute Kotto, in the Central African Republic (CAR), claiming the living of more than 30 people and displacing thousands more, JRS has completed construction of six schools.
Chad: nutrition, early education provides a head start
Goz Beida, 28 June 2011 – Promoting access to preschool for internally displaced children was the goal when Jesuit Refugee Service started an education project here in eastern Chad in September 2008. JRS manages the preschool project at six sites in this arid region, which directly benefits more than 1,700 children who attend the schools.
Chad: helping former child soldiers return to normality
Abéché, Chad 2 June 2011 — In this hot and dusty town in eastern Chad, more than 500 miles from the capital city, the Jesuit Refugee Service accompanies former child soldiers, helping them return to a normal life after several years of conflict. The programme also seeks to prevent any new recruitment of children into fighting units.
Côte d'Ivoire: rising violence fuels massive rise in displacement
Abidjan, 25 March 2011 – Increasing violence in Abidjan led to a steep rise in forced displacement. Estimates put the number of internally displaced persons in the coastal city between 700,000 and one million people.
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