Refugee numbers from Central African Republic swell to more than 37,000

Briefing Notes, 5 April 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 5 April 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is continuing to see outflows of refugees from Central African Republic. Over the last two weeks our offices have reported fresh arrivals into Chad, Cameroon, and Democratic Republic of Congo. In all, and since the conflict began last December, there are now 37,000 CAR refugees in the region.

The refugees are mainly from Bangui, as well as the cities of Bangassou, Rifai and Zemio in the southeastern part of the country bordering DRC.

Since December, 30,876 CAR refugees have found asylum in northern DRC. Chad has meanwhile received 5,600 CAR refugees, and 1,024 arrivals have been registered in Cameroon.

The help needs of these refugees are significant. Many left their homes in a hurry and were unable to bring personal belongings with them. People are either without places to live or being accommodated by local families who themselves live in extreme poverty.

UNHCR is working with the authorities in all three receiving countries to provide protection and assistance. Our teams across the region are registering the refugees, distributing aid and setting up emergency shelters. We are also working with our humanitarian partners to provide health and education support wherever possible. This is often in remote and hard to reach locations.

In Chad we have transferred refugees away from the border to Moro, a camp already hosting CAR refugees.

In northern DRC we have so far managed to help 26,751 people. Those in Equateur province are in one established camp and 19 temporary sites. In the area of Zongo, across the river from Bangui, we are planning to expand the Worobe camp. Further north in Inke, North-Ubangi District, our colleagues have also begun clearing 400 hectares of land given by the authorities to create initial capacity for at least 10,000 refugees.

By moving refugees into camps we hope to improve the situation. Currently, people are scattered along a 600 km stretch of the CAR border making it hard to meet their needs. The areas they are in lack basic infrastructure. Health centres are short of medicine and qualified medical staff. On 29 March for example, a baby of 20 months old died from internal bleeding in Mobayi General Hospital because she could not be attended to in time.

Further east, in Orientale Province UNHCR is running a main transit center at Bondo but we plan to build six additional ones and rehabilitate another.

The influx continues as the situation remains volatile in CAR where another 173,000 civilians have been uprooted during the recent violence.

Before the March 24 coup, there were already 187,889 CAR refugees in Cameroon (87,092), in Chad (70,664), in DRC (29,000) and in South Sudan (1,143). They mainly fled from years of harassment by various armed groups operating mainly in northern CAR.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Cameroon (on mission), Djerassem Mbaiorem, on mobile +236 72 22 35 11
  • In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 34 83
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Crisis in the Central African Republic

Little has been reported about the humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the Central African Republic (CAR), where at least 295,000 people have been forced out of their homes since mid-2005. An estimated 197,000 are internally displaced, while 98,000 have fled to Chad, Cameroon or Sudan. They are the victims of fighting between rebel groups and government forces.

Many of the internally displaced live in the bush close to their villages. They build shelters from hay, grow vegetables and even start bush schools for their children. But access to clean water and health care remains a huge problem. Many children suffer from diarrhoea and malaria but their parents are too scared to take them to hospitals or clinics for treatment.

Cattle herders in northern CAR are menaced by the zaraguina, bandits who kidnap children for ransom. The villagers must sell off their livestock to pay.

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Crisis in the Central African Republic

Battling the Elements in Chad

More than 180,000 Sudanese refugees have fled violence in Sudan's Darfur region, crossing the border to the remote desert of eastern Chad.

It is one of the most inhospitable environments UNHCR has ever had to work in. Vast distances, extremely poor road conditions, scorching daytime temperatures, sandstorms, the scarcity of vegetation and firewood, and severe shortages of drinkable water have been major challenges since the beginning of the operation. Now, heavy seasonal rains are falling, cutting off the few usable roads, flooding areas where refugees had set up makeshift shelters, and delaying the delivery of relief supplies.

Despite the enormous environmental challenges, UNHCR has so far managed to establish nine camps and relocate the vast majority of the refugees who are willing to move from the volatile border.

Battling the Elements in Chad

Chad: Relocation from the Border to Refugee Camps

Since fighting broke out in Sudan's western region of Darfur last year, more than 110,000 Sudanese refugees have fled into Chad. They are scattered along a 600-km stretch of desert borderland under a scorching sun during the day and freezing temperatures during the night.

Access to these refugees in this inhospitable region is difficult. Staff of the UN refugee agency drive for days to locate them. Bombing in the border zone and cross-border raids by militia from Sudan put the refugees at risk and underscore the urgent need to move them to camps in the interior. In addition, the approach of the rainy season in May will make the sandy roads impassable. Aid workers are racing against time in an attempt bring emergency relief to these refugees.

Chad: Relocation from the Border to Refugee Camps

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