Forced displacement from CAR continuing amid widespread lawlessness

Briefing Notes, 13 August 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 13 August 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is continuing to see forced displacement within and from Central African Republic. Inside CAR itself there are now an estimated 206,000 Internally Displaced People. Since mid-July we have seen an additional 4,125 refugees arriving in the Moissala area of southern Chad.

There are now 62,714 refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries since the latest CAR crisis erupted last December 40,500 of these in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 13,087 in Chad, 4,841 in Republic of Congo, and 4,286 in Cameroon.

UNHCR remains extremely concerned over the situation inside CAR, with continuing reports of lawlessness and insecurity in many areas. In Bangui, a local UN staff member was the victim of an attack by rogue Seleka elements on Sunday night. They raided his home at midnight, ordered him to give them money, then took his bike and shot him in the chest. He is now recovering from the wound. Another local UN staff member was seriously wounded and her husband killed during a similar incident a week ago. Such night attacks in Bangui have become increasingly common.

In rural areas, widespread fear is reported among the civilian population, who are responding in some cases by organizing vigilante groups. Clashes between the local population and elements of Seleka took place in the morning yesterday and the day before at Beboura, a village located 30 km from Paoua, a town near the Chadian border. The exact toll is still unknown but wounded people have been transported to a hospital in Paoua. This past weekend we also received reports of two people having been killed by armed men allegedly affiliated to Seleka in Bossangoa, in the northwest prefecture of Ouham. Thirty other people were reported killed by the Seleka in the same area.

Access for humanitarian workers remains difficult, although we now have better access to the refugee camps at Bambari, Batalimo, and Zemio in central and southern CAR which together host 11,252 mainly Congolese and Sudanese refugees. We completed a second round of food distribution in the camps last week, coupled with distribution of mosquito nets, blanket, plastic sheeting and kitchen sets for 8,000 refugees and 796 vulnerable people in the host population.

UNHCR is again calling on the CAR government to do more to ensure the safety of people and their property across the country, to avert further displacement and suffering.

We are also appealing to public and private donors to support this forgotten crisis. As of last Friday, our CAR operation was less than 30 per cent funded. We have so far received US$ 8 million out of the US$ 28.8 million required to help refugees in neighbouring countries.

For more information, please contact:

  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba at +41 79 249 34 83
  • In CAR: Djerassem Mbaiorem at +236 72 22 35 11
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Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

Edwige Kpomako is a woman in a hurry; but her energy also helps the refugee from Central African Republic (CAR) to cope with the tragedy that forced her to flee to northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last year. Before violence returned to her country in 2012, the 25-year-old was studying for a Masters in American literature in Bangui, and looking forward to the future. "I started my thesis on the works of Arthur Miller, but because of the situation in CAR . . . ," she said, her voice trailing off. Instead, she had to rush to the DRC with a younger brother, but her fiancée and 10-year old son were killed in the inter-communal violence in CAR.

After crossing the Oubangui River to the DRC, Edwige was transferred to Mole, a camp housing more than 13,000 refugees. In a bid to move on with her life and keep busy, she started to help others, assume a leadership role and take part in communal activities, including the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. She heads the women's committee, is engaged in efforts to combat sexual violence, and acts as a liaison officer at the health centre. She also teaches and runs a small business selling face creams. "I discovered that I'm not weak," said Edwige, who remains optimistic. She is sure that her country will come out of its nightmare and rebuild, and that she will one day become a human rights lawyer helping refugees.

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Since January 2014, a funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 60 per cent in refugee camps in southern Chad. The reduction comes as thousands of refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in the south - more than 14,000 of them since the beginning of 2014. Many arrive sick, malnourished and exhausted after walking for months in the bush with little food or water. They join some 90,000 other CAR refugees already in the south - some of them for years.

The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

Photojournalist Corentin Fohlen and UNHCR Public Information Officer Céline Schmitt visited CAR refugees in southern Chad to document their plight and how they're trying to cope.

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