YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - Threats and killings by Islamist militants are jeopardizing World Bank-funded agriculture, health and water projects in parts of Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad, a bank official says.
Makhtar Diop, a vice president for the financial institution, said the rebel group Boko Haram’s terrorism has set back projects to improve the livelihoods of people in famine-stricken northern Cameroon and Nigeria and southern Chad.
In northern Cameroon, a high-poverty area that’s vulnerable to natural disasters, a $108 million grant is stagnating instead of rehabilitating embankments, dams and irrigation systems and improving disaster-preparedness.
Diop met with Cameroon President Paul Biya to discuss how Boko Haram has created panic and slowed the execution of some World Bank-financed projects.
Diop told VOA they talked about economic development and how to increase “the conditions of peace and stability … and try also to see how we can strengthen all the social protection programs to alleviate poverty.”
Midjiyawa Bakari governs a far northern region of Cameroon, where World Bank grants aim to restore rice production and provide food and income for the area’s three million-plus residents. But he told VOA the projects had suffered because most beneficiaries and aid workers are leaving, fearing the violent Islamist group and its regular assaults on villages.
The governor said it’s time to address the insecurity in north Cameroon. He adds that residents have found weapons buried in some towns and are investigating their origins. Such situations scare people from working in the north, he concludes.
Investors and foreign workers also are leaving far northern Cameroon. Chinese road construction engineers left Mora, on the border with Nigeria, after suspected Boko Haram members kidnapped 10 of their workers in May.
Cameroon, Benin, Chad, Niger and Nigeria declared war on Boko Haram in May, weeks after the militant group kidnapped at least 276 girls from their school in the Nigerian village of Chibok, in Borno state.
According to Amnesty International, more than 1,500 civilian deaths have been reported amid increasing violence and assaults by the violent group in the past five years.