Wasting away in camps, hoping for peace to return to the Central African Republic

Published: 27 June 2014 7:46 CET

Nelly Muluka, IFRC

Months of civil unrest in the Central African Republic have left many scars on those caught in the middle. Overnight, bread winners have been reduced to dependents, many talk about the emotional torture and feelings of hopelessness they endure as days turn into months and there is no sign of them soon being able to return home.

Martin Ongola is a 62 year old teacher who now lives in a camp for displaced people in Bangui, along with his married daughters and their children. Ongola, and many other professionals like him, are frustrated, wasting away in the camps, as any hopes of utilizing their skills remain a dream due to the ongoing violence and insecurity.

“As a professional teacher, before the violence, I was working and feeding my family, but with persistent violence, attacks and counter attacks, coupled with insecurity, I no longer know what will become of me. I cannot plan for the future,” says Ongola. “I have lost dignity and I feel so helpless. Seeing my entire family here and knowing that I cannot provide for them leaves me broken. Even if I opted to go back and continue with my career, where would I go and who would I teach? My students were displaced, the school was vandalized, and my house was looted.”

Many professionals, most of them young professionals, find themselves in the same predicament. “Look at these young people idling here. They could be doing something better for themselves and their families, but their businesses were looted and all they do is to sit here with no hopes for tomorrow,” adds Ongola.

Plea for assistance

Continued fighting has left more than 578,000 people homeless in the Central African Republic. Close to one-third now crowd into 42 camps for the internally displaced in Bangui. Hundreds of thousands of others have fled to neighbouring countries.

“We need assistance, with security guaranteed and true forgiveness realized, so that we can start living again. Someone needs to give us hope and to teach us how to forgive ourselves and to forgive others,” says Ongola, adding that unutilized skills are as good as dead skills.

Amidst this situation, Central African Red Cross Society volunteers and staff continue to support affected families, providing them with emergency health care, water, hygiene and sanitation.  But the needs are enormous and more support is required.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal of 1,136,640 Swiss francs to enable the Central African Red Cross Society to provide some of that support to at least 50,000 people. The appeal is currently 58 per cent funded.

“Even when all seems to be quiet, the National Society is being requested to go and either collect bodies or transfer injured people to the hospital weekly, or at times daily, with more people being displaced,” says Antoine Mbao Bogo, president, Central African Red Cross Society.

Major challenges for those most affected by the increasing insecurity include inadequate shelter and sanitation, limited access to health services and safe water, insufficient food intake, and non-existent purchasing power.