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04-02-2014 | Latest News , Africa

The uncertain fate of refugees fleeing violence in Central African Republic

ENG

Mirabelle ENAKA Kima, IFRC


Thousands of men, women, and children, CAR nationals jam-packed into freight trucks and covered in dus,t arrive d the localities Garoua-Boulai and Kentzu in in east Cameroon, the East Region of Cameroon, fleeing the raging violence that has terrorized characterized the Central African Republic (CAR) since December 2013.


Driven from their villages and deprived of all their property, these families arrive in Cameroon with some hurriedly assembled clothes and pots. According to the Cameroon Red Cross, about 9,000 refugees are currently in some border villages. Most of them sleep in the open, where they are exposed to severe cold and mosquito bites.


About 800 are living in a church in of them live in the Chapelle Notre Dame de l'Espérance of Garoua-Boulai, where
they sleep on the bare floor in the modest guest home of the parish. "They need food, shelter, mats, blankets and latrines," says Father Kevin, the parish priest. "We do not have the logistics and financial resources to meet the most immediate needs of these people who have lost everything.".


To survive, women and children have to beg from the host locals populations who, despite their modest incomes, generously provide give them a few kilograms of rice and fish. "We survive thanks to the generosity of the people who give us a little food to feed our children,"; says Adawiya Ali Fadel, a Central African mother. "Our husbands were forced to stay back in CAR due to lack of transport fare. We have been abandoned to our fate and can no longer work to support our families.", adds Adawiya.


Difficult access to safe water and limited sanitation facilities expose both refugees and host communities to the risk of hygiene-related diseases. AMoreover, access to health care for the sick and pregnant women is also a major problem for these refugees who are already weakened by malaria, the leading cause of mortality in the Central African Republic. "I am seven months pregnant and so far, I have had no antenatal care. Our village was looted, my father killed in the fighting, while my mother and I arrived here some weeks ago. She is very sick and we have no money for treatment,", says 17 -year -old Issa Nathalie, from Bouar-CAR.


Furthermore, the presence of a large number of unvaccinated children among these refugees according to the Cameroonian authorities is a huge threat to the health of children in the East Region that recently received the polio vaccine. This alarming situation is the consequence of the closure of 80 percent of the vaccination centres and the general breakdown of the health system in CAR.


The Cameroon Red Cross has deployed a large number of volunteers to provide first aid to the refugees. "Our volunteers work alongside the UN High Commission for Refugees to register new arrivals. We also provide psychosocial support to the most vulnerable. WMoreover, with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), we started an assessment to identify the most urgent needs of these vulnerable people,", says Faustin TsimiSIMI, Disaster Management Coordinator of the Cameroon Red Cross.


In September 2013, the IFRC issued an emergency appeal that enabled the Cameroon Red Cross Society to assist 3,200 CAR refugees in the localities of Guiwa Yangamo and Bétaré-Oya through the distribution of non-food items, and provision of psychosocial support and, access to safe water and sanitation. Today, with the growing influx of new refugees in the region, the needs have tripled. An assessment is now underway to improve assistance to thousands more of these new arrivals. vulnerable people.


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