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.

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