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Hundreds of Somalia’s Vulnerable People Receive Training, Capital from Jesuit-founded NGO

Some 250 vulnerable people initiated into entrepreneurship by COOPI.

Hundreds of vulnerable people in Somalia’s Mogadishu Diocese have benefited from entrepreneurship training and business start-up capital from the leadership of Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI), an Italy-based non-governmental organization (NGO) founded by a Jesuit Cleric.

Among the 250 beneficiaries of the training are displaced persons and returnees who had escaped the protracted conflict that the Horn of Africa nation has experienced since the collapse of the central government in 1991, a Monday, December 14 report obtained by ACI Africa indicates.

“The project stems from the need to facilitate the social and economic reintegration of returnees, mainly from Kenya, and internal displaced persons who often have no access to economic support from their families and even less from financial institutions,” COOPI officials have reported.

They add referencing the beneficiaries, “The unemployed condition in which they are once they arrive in the peripheral areas of Mogadishu does not allow them to live in healthy and dignified conditions.”

To mitigate the impact of unemployment on Somali’s vulnerable population, the leadership of the Milan-based entity with presence in some 30 countries facilitated a two-month course aimed at building the capacity of the beneficiaries on economic and managerial issues.

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At the end of the course, the beneficiaries received a certificate of attendance and an initial business start-up capital of USD 500, as well as investment advice from experts, officials of the NGO say in reference to the two-month course that is funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Dubbed “Developing Entrepreneurial mind-set of returnees, IDPs & host communities through capacity building and start-up grants provision," the project, which started in 2017 has so far benefitted 1,210 people, COOPI officials say in the December 14 report.

Meanwhile, COOPI’s leadership is facilitating a complimentary COVID-19 response to vulnerable populations in Mali’s Segou and Mopti Dioceses in partnership with Switzerland-based Terres Des Hommes International Federation. 

Targeting 22,000 beneficiaries, the multi-agency-funded project focuses on the process of identification and management of positive COVID-19 cases, COOPI officials say in a separate December 14 report obtained by ACI Africa.

Among the agencies funding the project are the European Civil Protection, Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), and the Italian Cooperation.

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The project also focuses on the provision of COVID-19 preventive material, sensitization of communities, and the strengthening of coordination channels at community level.

In the landlocked West African nation of Mali, the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak is part of a multidimensional crisis context, characterized by food insecurity, inadequate government services – particularly health services, environmental vulnerability, lack of resources and strong political and security instability, COOPI officials add.

“The intensification of ethnic conflicts and the advance of jihadist or self-defense groups aggravates the situation of extreme precariousness and vulnerability in the regions of Segou and Mopti,” officials of the 55-year-old agency observe.

The insecurity context “severely limits the government's ability to prevent the spread of the epidemic and to provide health care to those infected, as well as to ensure the quality of and access to the general health services needed by the population, particularly for patients suffering from severe and acute malnutrition,” they further say.

"Our strategy is to implement multi-sectoral responses to the prevention of acute malnutrition and to directly strengthen the state health system,” COOPI's head of mission in Mali, Cristina Cardarelli has been quoted as saying in the December 14 report.

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She adds, “The interventions are developed in line with the national plans, focus on prevention, surveillance and patient care, and are implemented through the involvement and coordination of all local actors involved in nutrition activities.”

For COOPI official, COVID-19 pandemic, which has reportedly infected at least 5,814 people in Mali, has forced a readjustment of the strategy to allow continuity of activities, limiting the spread of the coronavirus and strengthening prevention systems.

Founded in 1965 by the “megaphone of charity” Italian Jesuit Fr. Vincenzo Barbieri (1930 – 2010), COOPI strives to break the cycle of poverty and support populations affected by wars, socio-economic crisis or disasters in order to encourage resilience and sustainable development.

In Africa, COOPI runs programs in Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Malawi, Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.

In its vision statement, “COOPI aspires to a world without poverty, a world in which the ideals of equality and justice, sustainable development and social cohesion can be achieved, thanks to the coming together and cooperation of its peoples.”