UNHCR appeals for accelerated help for refugees fleeing CAR, South Sudan

Briefing Notes, 4 March 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 March 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

With humanitarian crises in Central African Republic and adjacent South Sudan UNHCR is increasingly concerned about the still unmet needs of refugees arriving in neighbouring countries, in particular Chad, Cameroon, and Ethiopia. We are appealing to our partners and the governments in these countries to help speed support to these populations which although still relatively small in number are nonetheless in urgent need of assistance.

The crises in South Sudan and Central African Republic have together caused one of the biggest refugee and IDP situations Africa has seen in recent years, together having forcibly displaced some 1.8 million people across a region with very sparse support capacities.

Within South Sudan, there are currently over 739,000 people who are internally displaced and a further 196,921 sheltering in neighbouring countries. The UN estimates that by June as many as 3.2 million people could be in need of humanitarian help. Already food security is a problem.

With Central African Republic there are currently 701,500 people internally displaced and 290,801 who have fled as refugees. More than half the country's 4.6 million people are currently in need of humanitarian help (2.5 million, according to UN estimates).

In Chad, Cameroon, Ethiopia and other locations where refugees are arriving, the help effort for refugees arriving from these conflicts urgently needs stepping up.

In Cameroon 30,820 refugees have arrived so far this year from the Central African Republic and are facing shortages of clean water, food and shelter. Many are in poor physical shape and suffering from malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory infections contracted while they had been in hiding in the bushes in CAR. Many children under the age of five are showing varying degrees of malnourishment, also related to lack of food in CAR. Over the weekend, 15 malnourished children died before they could be saved Pressures on local communities are also rising with the influx, and help is needed for them too.

In southern Chad, some 8,000 CAR refugees are in the area around Sido just across the border from CAR's main Route National 4. Many people are without shelter and are camping in the open beneath trees. Clean water and latrines are a problem. As existing refugee camps in this part of Chad are saturated with new arrivals, UNHCR is advocating with the Government to identify a new site where we can better address refugees' pressing needs, particularly for food, clean water, latrines and health services.

In Ethiopia, we are seeing refugees arriving in worsening states due to the lack of food inside South Sudan and the long distances that many have had to walk to reach the Pagak and Akobo border areas. Medical screening last week revealed that 27.7 per cent of children were suffering from global acute malnutrition and 11.1 percent from severe acute malnutrition (the worst kind). With our partners, we have immediately put in place a blanket supplementary feeding programme for children under five years of age, and pregnant and lactating mothers.

However, the increasing numbers of new arrivals are outpacing available humanitarian resources. Meanwhile, funding for both the Central African Republic and South Sudan emergencies remains far below needs:

For CAR the UN is seeking $551 million for 2014 under its Strategic Response Plan, of which UNHCR's needs are $112 million. With UNHCR's part we have received only nine per cent so far.

With South Sudan the UN is seeking $1.27 billion by June 2014, of which UNHCR's portion is $55 million. At present, $1.01 billion of the UN requirements have not been met. UNHCR has received only $12.4 million of the amount it has requested.

UNHCR will be seeking further funding in the near future to match the size and needs of the growing refugee populations fleeing from the Central African Republic and South Sudan. CAR refugees are found in Chad, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo. South Sudanese refugees are being sheltered in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.

Related photos at http://rfg.ee/uddhI (zip file for download)

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483
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A Central African Refugee's Reunion With Her Sons Brings Joy and Sorrow

The violence and conflict in the Central African Republic has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes since mid-December. Many have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, including 80,000 in Cameroon. During the trauma and confusion of flight, families often become separated. They face many dangers on the way to safety, and their journey can take many weeks. Ramatou, a 45-year-old mother of 11 children, was separated from three of her sons and her husband when militiamen attacked her village in January. She ran in one direction with eight children and eventually made it to Cameroon with the help of African Union peace-keepers. Her husband and three sons ran in a different direction and endured many ordeals in the bush, becoming separated again. Earlier this month, Ramatou was reunited in Cameroon's Mbile Refugee Camp with the two youngest boys. She was overjoyed, but dismayed that they were on their own. She still hopes for her husband and eldest son to turn up. Photographer Fred Noy was there at the emotional reunion.

A Central African Refugee's Reunion With Her Sons Brings Joy and Sorrow

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

Over the past month, almost 6,300 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have left the Batalimo camp in the troubled Central African Republic and returned voluntarily to their homes in Equateur province. Their decision to go back is a further sign of the gravity of the situation in Central African Republic, where escalated violence since December has left hundreds of thousands internally displaced and forced almost 350,000 to flee to neighbouring countries. The refugees at Batalimo were among some 20,000 Congolese who had fled to the Central African Republic to escape inter-ethnic conflict back home. The return operation from Batalimo had been postponed several times for security and logistical reasons, but on April 10 the first convoy headed across the Oubangui River. The last arrived in the DRC on May 10. The UN refugee agency organized transportation of the refugees from Batalimo to the Central African Republic riverside town of Zinga, where they boarded boats for the crossing to Batanga or Libenge in Equateur province. In Batanga, the returnees were registered, provided with documentation and given a cash grant to help them reintegrate. They were then transported to their villages, where they will be monitored. Photographer Leonora Baumann followed one group back to the DRC.

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Each week 10,000 Muslims cross into eastern Cameroon to escape the violence consuming the Central African Republic (CAR). Many new arrivals report that they have been repeatedly attacked as they fled. The anti-Balaka militiamen have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing people to find alternate routes through the bush. Many are walking two to three months to reach Cameroon, arriving malnourished and bearing wounds from machetes and gunshots.

UNHCR and its partners have established additional mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. The UN refugee agency is also supporting public health centres that have been overwhelmed by the number of refugees and their condition.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas, bringing them to new sites at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received nearly 70,000 refugees from CAR, adding to the 92,000 who fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

UNHCR staff members Paul Spiegel and Michele Poletto recently travelled to eastern Cameroon and have the following photos to share from their iPhone and camera.

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African RefugeesPlay video

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African Refugees

The UN refugee agency and its partners appealed for more donor support to cope with the continuing outflow and deteriorating condition of refugees from the Central African Republic.
South Sudan: Food Security Play video

South Sudan: Food Security

Jacob is plowing 20 kilometers far from his own home town, Bor, after having to abandon it due to the ongoing fighting in South Sudan. Now in Mingkaman camp,as a displaced person, this land he plows is all he has after losing farm and cattle back home
South Sudan: Flooding Disaster Play video

South Sudan: Flooding Disaster

Nearly 100,000 people are living in cramped, overcrowded camps in Mingkaman, in Rivers State, South Sudan. Whenever it rains, tents become flooded causing already fragile sanitation conditions to worsen.