CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Briefing Notes, 11 April 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 11 April 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is extremely concerned about reports of anti-Balaka militiamen preventing civilians from leaving the Central African Republic and attacking them along the way.

Over the past two weeks, our colleagues in Cameroon have been seeing refugees arrive with wounds from machetes or gunshots. They are also witnessing an increase in the number of people crossing into Cameroon via remote border entry points.

New arrivals told our colleagues that anti-Balaka militias have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing them to wade through the bush for two to three months before reaching the border. The refugees also said that the anti-Balaka attacked them during their flight.

In recent days, we have registered three people a woman, a boy and a man with serious machete wounds. Another man had a gunshot in the chest. All of the wounded have received medical care.

The majority of the new arrivals are women, children and elderly people, and all are Muslims. They told UNHCR staff that the men stayed in CAR to create self-defence groups to protect their community and their cattle.

UNHCR is calling on the anti-Balaka to stop preventing civilians from fleeing to neighbouring countries for safety. We are also calling on all sides to the conflict to renounce violence.

Despite the obstacles to their movement, an average of 10,000 people now cross weekly from CAR into eastern Cameroon. With the main entry points at Garoua Boulai and Kenzou no longer accessible due to anti-Balaka activities, people are using alternative routes. This has caused the number of entry points into Cameroon to grow from 12 to 27 over last three weeks, making it more challenging for our colleagues to monitor the border.

Most new arrivals are coming from the areas of Boda and Bozoum, near the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad, respectively. Because of the long detour, all of the refugees are arriving in a terrible state, some with swollen feet or legs and others suffering from malnutrition.

With our partners, we have increased the number of mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. We are also supporting public health centers overwhelmed both by the number of refugees and their condition.

Meanwhile, we have relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living out in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas. They are now settled in the sites we set up at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop all located in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received 69,389 refugees from CAR. This is on top of the 92,000 Centrafricain refugees who have fled in various waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune on mobile: +41 79 249 3483
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

Central African Republic: Urgent Appeal

You can help save the lives of thousands of refugees

Donate to this crisis

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

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

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.
Cameroon: A Young Victim of ViolencePlay video

Cameroon: A Young Victim of Violence

Militia attacks on civilians in Central African Republic have left many people, including children, dead or badly injured. Six-year-old Ibrahim is recovering from one such attack, lucky to be alive.
Cameroon:  Malnourished ChildrenPlay video

Cameroon: Malnourished Children

Some 80,000 people from Central African Republic have fled to Cameroon this year, many of them after walking for weeks or months through the bush with almost no food and water. Many of the children have severe malnutrition. UNHCR and its partners are rushing to help them.