A $100 million emergency recovery project in northern Mozambique, where a jihadist insurgency has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, was approved by the World Bank on Wednesday.
The government and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which manages the project, reached an agreement for the funding, which is part of a three-year $700-million project.
Since 2017, a jihadist insurgency led by a group known locally as al-Shabab has ravaged the gas-rich Cabo Delgado province.
In a major intensification of the violence, Islamic State-linked militants raided the coastal town of Palma on March 24, killing dozens of people and driving more than 25,000 out of the town.
Three years of violence have killed at least 2,800 people according to Acled, a non-governmental organisation (NGO).
President Filipe Nyusi, who attended the signing ceremony in Pemba, the provincial capital, said the agreement would help deal with a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
He vowed that “together we shall overcome and win” the battle with extremists, by focusing the national agenda on development.
“The heart of this plan is to remove families from situations of vulnerability through socio-economic inclusion,” the president said.
The government also sought “to restore normality to affected areas” where around 700,000 people have been displaced, he added.
The project aims to provide social services along with agricultural aid and infrastructure such as schools and mobile hospitals.
Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, WB director for Mozambique, said the funds will help people who have lost income and shelter.
“What is significant in this moment is the humanitarian need,” she told AFP.
Though banks do not focus on humanitarian issues, she said, it is becoming clear “there is no clear line between humanitarian and development” work.
UNOPS Director for East and Southern Africa, Rainer Frauenfeld, told AFP that the funding “goes beyond the pure humanitarian aid that has been provided and that will help with local development.”
Agriculture and Rural Development minister Celso Correia who signed the deal on behalf of the government said it represented “a positive dynamic”.
Meantime a summit of leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which was due to be held in Maputo on Thursday, has been postponed because two presidents cannot make it.
Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is the current SADC leader, is in quarantine after one of his office staff members tested positive for Covid-19.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will also be unavailable as he is testifying before an anti-corruption judicial panel in Johannesburg.
The talks had been expected to discuss a report by a special team sent to Mozambique earlier this month to assess the security situation in Cabo Delgado and recommend ways to counter the extremist violence.
“We have never refused any support,” said Nyusi in Pemba. “No country can fight terrorists alone”.