The World Bank has announced that it was suspending its support for all road construction projects in Uganda amid sexual assault claims. The bank has also cited environmental issues as part of the reason for cancelling financial support for roads in the country.
According to a report by the bank, the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA)-a body charged with construction of roads and highway in the country failed to meet certain social and environmental standards that the bank wanted upheld as conditions of receiving the funding.
Claims are emerging that construction of roads especially in the district of Kamwenge has resulted to sexual abuse against children perpetrated by construction workers. Residents say that the authorities are not keen to investigate the claims.
But a report by NGO Joy for Children dubbed the impact of the World Bank funded Kamwenge, published last year revealed increased rates of secondary school dropouts because of pregnancy as a result of alleged sexual abuse by employees of the construction company.
The report found out that school going girls were targeted by construction workers on their way to school. The Joy for Children report says at least nine girls left the same secondary school between September and December 2014. They all claimed to have left after falling pregnant by construction staff.
In response, Allen Kagina, the Uganda National Roads Authority executive director said last month that he wants specific cases addressed and action taken against the culprits.
Contraction workers also report problems. For instance, some workers say they were not given contracts or appointment letters and when they fall sick, they are not paid. Some construction workers reported of being beaten and some injured. The incisive report also noted safety failures for workers saying there had been little local consultation about the scheme.
This is not the first time that the World Bank is suspending funding for construction projects in Uganda. Last year, the bank cancelled funding to the Transport Sector Development Project (TSDP) when contractual disputes arose between Uganda and its workers. However, it is rare for it to completely cancel funds.