Opening the door to families fleeing violence in Central African Republic

Publié: 10 juillet 2013 12:33 CET

By Mirabelle Enaka, IFRC, and Nelly Tangua, Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Yvette Nzwambe is a mother of eight who, despite living in extremely challenging circumstances, has opened up her modest home to welcome 40 refugees who have fled conflict in Central African Republic (CAR). Yvette lives in the village of Mobayi-Mbongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which sits on the border of the two countries.

“They have been here for four months now,” says Yvette. “There are eight families now, all with children. I am using my own modest income to support my new extended family.”

The conflict in Central African Republic is very close to home for those living in Mobayi-Mbango. The people here have gained a reputation for generosity, but the area is popular among CAR refugees because of strong family links, its proximity to their homeland, and the shared language and cultural history. To date, more than 10,000 CAR refugees are believed to have settled in this region alone.

Sinclair Mogbeleya is one of the refugees living in Yvette’s home. He is also a police officer and is, therefore, not eligible for UNHCR food assistance. This puts even more pressure on his host.

“I am thankful for what Yvette is able to give us,” says Sinclair. “But it is better for my wife, seven children and me if we move to the new camp that is being built at Inke, even if it is 40 kilometres away. There we will get regular food, health care and my children can continue their studies.”

The camp will house approximately 2,000 people and an awareness campaign is underway to determine how many people are willing to be resettled there. Not everyone is happy to move away, leaving established communities, giving up fishing opportunities that are provided by the Ubangui River, and becoming reliant on food aid which, many say, is not adequate. Fishing for many families in this region is their main source of income.

“I am hesitant to move further away from the river and my homeland,” says Christine Sambia, 49, who, at the moment is also living with Yvette. “However, I will leave it up to my husband to make the final decision.”

The efforts of host families like Yvette’s are making the lives of refugees safer and more comfortable, but the needs are huge and are stretching the limited resources of indigenous peoples themselves. The result is that they too are becoming more vulnerable.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal to support 15,000 refugees over the coming six months.

The IFRC will work through staff and volunteers from the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to provide immediate relief to refugees living outside the camps and living with host families. Assistance will take the form of food distributions, health care, access to water and sanitation, and reuniting families from Central African Republic who became separated as they escaped the violence.