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Cameroon: UNHCR stepping up aid to CAR refugees arriving in poor conditions

Briefing Notes, 14 March 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 14 March 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In eastern Cameroon an increasing number of people fleeing violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) are arriving ill, due to hunger and exhaustion during their flight.

Some 80 percent of the latest arrivals suffer ailments such as malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory infections. More than 20 percent of the children are severely malnourished.

While in CAR, many were forced to walk over a month and hide in the bushes without food or clean water, to avoid being killed by anti-Balaka militiamen who have been targeting Muslims in revenge attacks.

Many have lost relatives to hunger along the way or shortly after reaching Cameroon. They are also traumatized by the horrors they experienced in northwest CAR.

One refugee said he could no longer eat meat after witnessing someone being killed and cut into pieces by Anti-Balaka.

A woman, whose husband had been shot by the anti-Balaka, lost six of her nine children to hunger in CAR, when they were in the bush for seven weeks without food.

Sixteen refugees died after reaching Cameroon between January and February, including six from severe malnutrition. Their conditions were too advanced for them to be saved despite the emergency treatment received in local hospitals.

Thirty three children have died in Kenzou, according to one of the community leaders of the 9,000 Chadians who had to flee from CAR. Twenty of the dead were Chadians, while the identity of the 13 others could not be determined.

Since March 2013, Cameroon has received 44,252 refugees from the Central African Republic. New arrivals are living with host families or sheltering in mosques, churches, a stadium, or in makeshift sites. Some are sleeping out in the open.

We have moved nearly 10,000 refugees who were sleeping out in the open to settlements we have established close to the villages of Lolo, Mborguene, Borgop and Gado. There, they receive food, clean drinking water, family shelters and basic relief items.

Meanwhile, we have stepped up assistance in border areas and deployed emergency staff, including nutrition specialists and site planners.

We have funded health posts and mobile clinics in Kenzou as well as Ngaoui, Yamba and Gbatoua-Godoli in the neighbouring Adamawa region.

We have also erected community shelters and latrines in Garoua Boulai and Kenzou to house women, children and elderly people.

Despite our efforts, aid is not enough to cover all the refugees' needs. We will require more donor support to expand facilities in Garoua Boulai and Kenzou and to turn them into transit centres where all arrivals can be medically screened and treated without delay. We will also be able to provide food and non-food assistance in order to avert further deaths. There have been no deaths in the refugee sites so far.

Before the current crisis, Cameroon was hosting 92,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), who started to arrive in 2004 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, 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.

Posted on 21 February 2008

Crisis in the Central African Republic

Silent Success

Despite being chased from their homes in the Central African Republic and losing their livelihoods, Mbororo refugees have survived by embracing a new way of life in neighbouring Cameroon.

The Mbororo, a tribe of nomadic cattle herders from Central African Republic, started fleeing their villages in waves in 2005, citing insecurity as well as relentless targeting by rebel groups and bandits who steal their cattle and kidnap women and children for ransom.

They arrived in the East and Adamaoua provinces of Cameroon with nothing. Though impoverished, the host community welcomed the new arrivals and shared their scant resources. Despite this generosity, many refugees died of starvation or untreated illness.

Help arrived in 2007, when UNHCR and partner agencies began registering refugees, distributing food, digging and rehabilitating wells as well as building and supplying medical clinics and schools, which benefit refugees and the local community and promote harmony between them. The Mbororo were eager to learn a new trade and set up farming cooperatives. Though success didn't come immediately, many now make a living from their crops.

Mbororo refugees continue to arrive in Central African Republic - an average of 50 per month. The long-term goal is to increase refugees' self-reliance and reduce their dependency on humanitarian aid.

Silent Success

Shared Experience Binds Hosts and Refugees Across the Oubangui River

The Oubangui River is a vital source of food and water for the hundreds of thousands living along its 1,000-kilometre-long course, and many rely on it for transport, trade and agriculture. The river, forming the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with Central African Republic and Republic of Congo, has also been a life-saving bridge to safety for people fleeing the waves of violence that plague this deprived region - and a route back home when peace returns. This year, more than 40,000 terrified people have fled conflict in Central African Republic and crossed the river to find shelter in DRC's Equateur and Oriental provinces. Here they have received a warm welcome from the local people, many of whom know exactly what it is like to be a refugee. Time and again, newly arrived refugees from CAR seek out people they once hosted in Bangui and other places along the river. And these old friends are offering them and their families places in already cramped homes, and sharing their meagre resources. Photographer Brian Sokol recently travelled to Equateur province to document the extraordinary bond between the refugees and host communities. These are some of his striking portraits of hosts and their guests. They know that one day their roles could be reversed by the ebb and flow of violence.

Shared Experience Binds Hosts and Refugees Across the Oubangui River

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