The uncertain fate of refugees fleeing violence in Central African Republic

Published: 5 February 2014 22:52 CET

By Mirabelle Enaka Kima, IFRC

Thousands of men, women, and children, jam-packed into freight trucks and covered in dust arrive in east Cameroon, fleeing the raging violence that has terrorized the Central African Republic (CAR) since December.

Driven from their villages and deprived of all their property, these families arrive in Cameroon with some hurriedly assembled clothes and pots. According to the Cameroon Red Cross, about 9,000 refugees are currently in border villages. Most of them sleep in the open, where they are exposed to severe cold and mosquito bites. About 800 are living in a church in Garoua-Boulai, where they sleep on the bare floor in the modest guest home of the parish. “They need food, shelter, mats, blankets and latrines,” says Father Kevin, the parish priest. “We do not have the logistics and financial resources to meet the most immediate needs of these people who have lost everything.”

To survive, women and children have to beg from the locals who, despite their modest incomes, generously provide a few kilograms of rice and fish. “We survive thanks to the generosity of the people who give us a little food to feed our children,” says Adawiya Ali Fadel, who fled the violence. “Our husbands were forced to stay back due to lack of transport fare. We have been abandoned to our fate and can no longer work to support our families.”

Difficult access to safe water and limited sanitation facilities expose both refugees and host communities to the risk of hygiene-related diseases. Access to health care for sick and pregnant women is also a major problem for these refugees who are already weakened by malaria, the leading cause of mortality in the Central African Republic. “I am seven months pregnant and so far, I have had no antenatal care,” says 17 year old Issa Nathalie, from Bouar. “Our village was looted, my father killed in the fighting, while my mother and I arrived here some weeks ago. She is very sick and we have no money for treatment.”

The Cameroon Red Cross has deployed a large number of volunteers to provide first aid to the refugees. “Our volunteers work alongside the UN High Commission for Refugees to register new arrivals. We also provide psychosocial support to the most vulnerable,” says Faustin Tsimi, Disaster Management Coordinator. “With the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), we started an assessment to identify the most urgent needs of these vulnerable people.”

In September 2013, IFRC issued an emergency appeal that enabled the Cameroon Red Cross Society to assist 3,200 CAR refugees in Guiwa Yangamo and Bétaré-Oya through the distribution of non-food items, psychosocial support and access to safe water and sanitation. Today, with the growing number of new refugees in the region, the needs have tripled. An assessment is now underway to improve assistance to thousands more of these new arrivals.

For more information on Red Cross Red Crescent activities in sub-Saharan Africa, please visit www.ifrc.org/africa .

In pictures

In pictures - New waves of refugees from Central African Republic have arrived in Cameroon

Thousands of men, women, and children, jam-packed into freight trucks and covered in dust arrive ...


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