Life as an internally displaced person in the Central African Republic

Published: 24 March 2014 13:46 CET

Mirabelle Enaka Kima, IFRC

During times of normality, Robert Ngouandjia is a police commissioner in the Central African Republic, living a good life with his two wives and 13 children. But times are far from normal in the central African country at the moment, and Robert and his family are now technically referred to as internally displaced persons, forced from their homes due to the ongoing violence.

"From the start of the crisis, the Doloko neighbourhood, where I lived with my family, was the scene of murders and all kinds of abuses. Our neighbours of yesterday, suddenly became enemies,” says Robert. “The dead were counted in the hundreds. Religious beliefs now divide us. Courtesy and respect that once characterized relations between neighbours have been replaced by extreme hatred. Many people were massacred as they went about their business."

Robert and his family now live in the St. Joseph Mukassa camp, which has housed more than 18,000 people since the conflict started. A piece of cloth is all that separates them from their immediate neighbour. Most sleep on the floor, without blankets or mosquito nets. It is now the rainy season and living conditions will become unbearable.

The heat generated under the tarpaulin that serves as the roof is unbearable. The few belongings the family has lay piled up in a corner, completely wet by the rain from the previous day. Despite the unpleasant conditions, it will remain home for the foreseeable future. "I cannot go back to work because I lack money for public transportation. Considering to go on foot will also endanger my life says Robert, his voice filled with emotion.

Like others, it is a daily struggle for the 57 year old to feed his family. "We have received two food rations in the four months we have been living in the camp. Having a meal is a real challenge for us. We basically live on vegetables produced from my second wife’s farm. But we don’t have enough money to buy oil and ingredients, so we have to eat just boiled vegetables to avoid dying of hunger,” confides Robert, as he and his wife Elodie Dali sit near a freshly harvested pile of cassava leaves.

At another camp, a meal distribution to the hundreds of children living there quickly turns into brawls. The younger ones, who struggled to remain in their queues, burst into tears. "These periodic distributions to children are received with great enthusiasm. They are seen like manna from heaven and greatly relieve parents,” says Bengue Octavia, a communications and education volunteer with the Central African Red Cross Society.  

There are an estimated 657,000 men, women and children internally displaced within the Central African Republic. Thousands of others have fled to neighbouring countries.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal to support the Central African Red Cross Society in providing assistance to 50,000 people through emergency health, water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, as well as sharing messages of peace and non-violence. This appeal also aims to strengthen the capacity of the Central African Republic Red Cross volunteers, who have been mobilized since the start of the crisis to provide assistance to those affected.


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