UNHCR renews call on donors to support Central African Republic refugees

Briefing Notes, 22 July 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 22 July 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

As the outflow of mostly Muslim refugees continues from the Central African Republic, many severely weakened, UNHCR and 16 other agencies providing life-saving relief are today calling on donors to increase their funding support for programmes in neighbouring host countries.

The appeal is a revision of a Regional Refugee Response Plan covering the four asylum countries Chad, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Republic of Congo initially launched in April 2014. Funding needs in that appeal were $274 million. Today's revised plan puts the required needs at $210 million for a targeted beneficiary population of 306,500 by December 2014. To date that amount is only 31 per cent funded.

The reduction in the financial requirements is mainly due to a decrease in the number of refugees projected to arrive in the DRC and does not include $85 million for some 100,000 returnees in Chad covered in the first appeal. Needs have grown in Cameroon where a majority of the refugees are arriving with $111 million requested in the Revised Plan, almost double of what was sought earlier.

Over 357,000 CAR refugees are in Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Congo since the beginning of the crisis in December 2012. Some 160,000 of them have fled since December 2013 after clashes intensified between the Seleka alliance and anti-Balaka militia.

The Revised Plan includes enhanced measures to assist newly arrived refugees. Resources are required for the reception, registration and relocation of new arrivals from the border to refugee sites, and for the delivery of services in life-saving sectors such as food, health, shelter, site planning and water and sanitation. Assistance is also needed for refugees living outside formal sites and for communities hosting them.

UNHCR has seen particularly serious malnutrition rates in Cameroon for over 118,000 arrivals in the last six months. Over 60 per cent of the refugees are women and children, with a high number of unaccompanied children.

Efforts must be redoubled to relocate people away from insecure and remote locations that are often hard to reach. More refugee sites need to be established to ensure the safety of refugees. Serious gaps in assistance remain in shelter and water, sanitation and hygiene. This poses particular concerns now that the rainy season has begun.

The new refugee arrivals show signs of the brutal violence they have escaped in CAR. Refugees have walked for weeks through the forests with little to eat or drink. In April and May, as many as 40 per cent of all the new refugees, children as well as adults, were suffering from malnutrition. We fear that for some children the assistance may be coming too late.

Since December 2013, some 17,500 have arrived in Chad, over 15,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with another 9,000 arriving in the Republic of Congo.

The CAR remains one of the most poorly-funded emergencies. The underfunding is badly hampering our ability to provide even basic survival assistance for the refugees and even less to the host communities.

Funding requirements for inside CAR, where an estimated 542,500 people remain internally displaced, are covered separately.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva, Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557 9106
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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.

American photojournalist Brian Sokol took these photos.

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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.

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