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UNHCR reaches Sudanese refugees in remote region of Central African Republic

News Stories, 31 May 2013

© UNHCR/J.Ghota
UNHCR staff meet the Sudanese refugees in Birao, Central African Republic, earlier this month.

GENEVA, May 31 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has established contact with some 3,500 Sudanese refugees who made their way to north-east Central African Republic after fleeing inter-tribal conflict in Sudan's Darfur region two months ago.

Refugees are presently scattered in the Birao, Boromata and Roukoutou districts, which are difficult to access. UNHCR staff in Central African Republic were finally able to meet some of the refugees in Birao on May 23.

The refugees said their villages in Am Djeradil district had been torched during the clashes in March and many people killed. Some families were also separated during the confusion, with hundreds heading to Central African Republic (CAR) and thousands of others crossing the border into south-east Chad, where they have received help from UNHCR.

Staff from UNHCR who went to Birao said the new arrivals were living in extremely precarious conditions. Most were living in the open under trees. Health and sanitation were a concern in an area with few health services available. They are at great risk of catching waterborne diseases because they were drinking water from a contaminated well.

The refugees are almost totally dependent on the local community and many of them have been given agricultural work, tending crops and harvesting bamboo for sale in the market.

UNHCR plans to assist the refugees, but security remains an issue. The refugee agency and the World Food Programme are planning distributions of food (for three months) and non-food aid.

Within CAR, the situation remains unstable following the capture of the capital, Bangui, by opposition Seleka forces in March. Humanitarian access to those in need, including more than 200,000 internally displaced people, remains very difficult. The prevailing security situation has badly impacted UNHCR's operations in the country.

Before this latest influx, CAR hosted a refugee population of 17,000 mostly Congolese refugees.

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A Central African Refugee's Reunion With Her Sons Brings Joy and Sorrow

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2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Each week 10,000 Muslims cross into eastern Cameroon to escape the violence consuming the Central African Republic (CAR). Many new arrivals report that they have been repeatedly attacked as they fled. The anti-Balaka militiamen have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing people to find alternate routes through the bush. Many are walking two to three months to reach Cameroon, arriving malnourished and bearing wounds from machetes and gunshots.

UNHCR and its partners have established additional mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. The UN refugee agency is also supporting public health centres that have been overwhelmed by the number of refugees and their condition.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas, bringing them to new sites at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received nearly 70,000 refugees from CAR, adding to the 92,000 who fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

UNHCR staff members Paul Spiegel and Michele Poletto recently travelled to eastern Cameroon and have the following photos to share from their iPhone and camera.

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UNHCR's Dr. Paul Spiegel on the Border of CAR  and CameroonPlay video

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