Prioritizing education for children, orphaned by conflict in Central African Republic

Published: 12 March 2015 6:00 CET

By Gerald Bikombi, Central African Red Cross Society & Nelly Muluka, IFRC

Persistent violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has not only uprooted hundreds of thousands of people, it has also left many children orphaned. Looking after these children is proving to be a big challenge for their care givers, many of whom are also displaced.

“I am the second last born child in a family of five. Our parents died when I was 12. Since then, we lived with our elder brother who provided for our basic needs and education. This was disrupted when conflict broke out in the country in 2013,” says Arlette, 25, who currently lives on the outskirts of Bouar.

The conflict pushed many families into the safety of camps, but Arlette says her family held on, hoping that all would soon be well.

“But things got worse with savage killings moving closer to us. We finally moved to a camp along with many other displaced people. There was my elder brother and his wife and their four children, my younger brother, an uncle, an aunt and two orphans, who requested to come along with us,” recounts Arlette.

The family endured many challenges during this time, going without food on several occasions and sleeping on bare ground in the open air.

“We suffered a lot and lost weight. It was also here that my elder brother became sick. There were no health services at the camp, so we gave him herbs and leaves from the bushes and his health improved. Shortly after, his wife went to visit her parents to see if they could help us,” says Arlette, adding that it was an agonizing wait for her sister-in-law to return, as they were all worried about her security.

Their worries were realized when news reached the family that the woman and her parents had been killed. “This information was too devastating for my brother who fell into a coma and died a day later,” says Arlette. “Suddenly, I found myself the sole breadwinner for my younger brother, my elder brother’s four children and the orphans. I had nothing to give them. I sank into a depression. Two of my brothers left, never to return.”

With no humanitarian aid available, Arlette decided to leave the camp.

“I went back to my brother’s house and found it vandalized with everything looted. Most of the homes were also deserted. I walked into the city where I borrowed some money to buy ingredients so I could brew traditional alcohol and sell it in the city,” says Arlette. After earning a meagre profit, she returned to the camp to retrieve the five orphans.

“I do not like brewing alcohol but I am forced do it for our survival. Although our main challenges are in food and clothing, I have opted to use the money I earn to enrol the children in school, where some security is assured. I wish to go back to school, but that is not possible for now,” she says.

Arlette and her family have since received emergency household supplies from the Central African Red Cross Society. They are among the more than 425 vulnerable families in Bouar who are receiving assistance through a revised emergency appeal, launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Currently, 50 trained volunteers are also teaching people living in the camps how to prevent the spread of disease, prepare water for consumption, and proper hygiene.

According to USAID, at least 2.7 million people (more than half of the country’s population) remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance with tens of thousands of people still holed up in 107 camps countrywide. A Red Cross assessment indicates immediate needs include emergency relief supplies, reconstruction materials for those willing to go back home, health care services, food, safe water and adequate sanitation, psychosocial support, and protection and sustainable peace.


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian organization, with 190 member National Societies. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, our work is guided by seven fundamental principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. About this site & copyright