Cameroon: some 20,000 more CAR refugees in three weeks

Briefing Notes, 21 February 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Dan McNorton to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 21 February 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The number of refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) has sharply increased this month in Cameroon, as violence continues to rip through the country.

Since the beginning of February a total of 19,565 refugees from CAR have crossed into Cameroon to escape violence perpetrated by the former Seleka and anti-Balaka militiamen in Bangui and other towns in north-western CAR. This is up from 4,764 CAR refugees in the first week of the month.

The latest influx brings to 35,142 the total number of CAR refugees who have fled to Cameroon since March 2013, when the Seleka rebels came to power in CAR amid reports of gross human rights violations.

Our colleagues in Garoua Boulay in eastern Cameroon witnessed the arrival on 16 February of 100 trucks carrying civilians from CAR. Additionally, some 3,000 people have been reported to have crossed the border into the town of Yokadouma in the south-east of Cameroon. They are coming from Bangui and mainly from localities such as Bossemptele, Bouar, Baboua, Beloko, Carnot, Boaro, Gambala, Berberati and Nola in the west of CAR.

We started on Monday the registration of those new arrivals in Garoua Boulay, and our colleagues are in Yokadouma to verify new arrivals.

Moreover, the growing number of new arrivals and their need for food and other basic necessities (cooking oil, rice, cassava, fish, beef, vegetables, sugar, salt, soap, fuel and other items) have resulted in higher prices and shortage of goods on the local market. Local residents are also feeling the pinch with rent increases.

New arrivals from CAR are living in appalling conditions. Most of them lack food and shelter. Generous host communities have taken in many people, but they cannot share their homes and resources with everyone.

We began to move refugees from Garoua Boulay to the new site at Mborguene, which can host up to 10,000 people.

Meanwhile, we are also looking at another site in Lolo, 46 kilometers from the border in the eastern region, which can take up to 15,000 refugees.

In separate development, 7,921 third-country nationals (TCN) arrived in Cameroon from CAR, and are mainly Chadian, Malian, Mauritanian, and Nigeriens. They are being repatriated by their embassies to their country of origin. As of today, 2,774 TCN have been repatriated, including 2,702 Chadians, 49 Malians, 1 Mauritanian and 22 Nigeriens.

Before the current crisis, Cameroon was hosting 92,000 refugees from CAR; the first started to arrive in 2006 to escape from rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Cameroon, Djerassem Mbaiorem on mobile +237 90 16 06 08
  • In Geneva, Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557 9106
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Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited Cameroon in late March to put a spotlight on the situation there of tens of thousands of refugees from Nigeria. These people have escaped mounting violence by insurgents in the north-east of their country. Among the places that Guterres visited during his March 24-25 visit is the Minawao Refugee Camp, where many of the uprooted have been relocated.

Situated some 120 kilometres from the dangerous border area with Nigeria in Cameroon's Far North region, Minawao camp is currently home to 33,000 Nigerian refugees, mainly from Borno state. Many of the arrivals are traumatized and in need of material and psycho-social help. They told the High Commissioner of losing their homes and belongings as well as members of their families. Some were injured. In total, an estimated 74,000 Nigerians have found refuge in Cameroon while cross-border incursions from Nigeria have displaced 96,000 Cameroonians. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux also visited Minawao to hear the individual stories.

Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

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.

American photojournalist Brian Sokol took these photos.

Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

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.

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Cameroon: Escape from NigeriaPlay video

Cameroon: Escape from Nigeria

Attacks by Nigerian insurgents have spread to neighbouring countries in recent months, severely restricting the 'humanitarian space' aid organisations, like UNHCR, can operate in to help people made homeless by the unrest. The insurgents have also recently mounted a series of suicide attacks in Cameroon - the first such attacks in the country.
Central African Republic: Displaced at HomePlay video

Central African Republic: Displaced at Home

The Central African Republic has been marred by conflict since December 2013, displacing more than 830,000 people. More than half are refugees. As a fragile peace begins to take hold, thousands of people are returning to CAR. Many, however, still face further displacement at home.
Cameroon: A Story of SurvivalPlay video

Cameroon: A Story of Survival

In Minawao camp, Cameroon, the memories of immense suffering are still haunting Nigerian refugees, even young children like Ibrahim.