Forced displacement from CAR continuing amid lawlessness

News Stories, 13 August 2013

© UNHCR/D.Mbaiorem
Deteriorating security in CAR forced UNHCR to relocate CAR refugees from the border area of Worobe in DRC to the new camp of Mole, 35 kilometers from the border.

GENEVA, 13 August (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Tuesday expressed extreme concern at reported lawlessness in Central Africa Republic, saying that the number of people displaced inside or forced to flee to neighbouring countries continues to grow.

"Inside CAR itself there are now an estimated 206,000 Internally Displaced People," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told a news briefing. "Since mid-July we have seen an additional 4,125 refugees arriving in the Moissala area of southern Chad."

There are now 62,714 refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries since the latest CAR crisis erupted last December 40,500 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 13,087 in Chad, 4,841 in Republic of Congo, and 4,286 in Cameroon.

"UNHCR remains extremely concerned over the situation inside CAR, with continuing reports of lawlessness and insecurity in many areas," Edwards said.

UNHCR said a local UN staff member in Bangui, the capital, was attacked by rogue Seleka elements on Sunday night. They raided his home at midnight, extorted money, then took his bike and shot him in the chest. He is now recovering. Another local UN staff member was seriously wounded and her husband killed in a similar incident a week ago. Such night attacks in Bangui have become increasingly common.

"In rural areas, widespread fear is reported among the civilian population, who are responding in some cases by organizing vigilante groups," said Edwards.

Clashes between the local population and elements of Seleka took place on Monday morning and the day before at Beboura, a village 30 km from Paoua, a town near the border with Chad. The exact toll is still unknown but wounded people were moved to a hospital in Paoua.

UNHCR said last weekend it received reports that two people were killed by armed men allegedly affiliated to Seleka in Bossangoa, in the northwest prefecture of Ouham. Thirty other people were reported killed by the Seleka in the same area.

Access for humanitarian workers remains difficult, although UNHCR said it now had better access to the refugee camps at Bambari, Batalimo, and Zemio in central and southern CAR which together host 11,252 mainly Congolese and Sudanese refugees.

The UN refugee agency completed a second round of food distribution in the camps last week, coupled with distribution of mosquito nets, blanket, plastic sheeting and kitchen sets for 8,000 refugees and 796 vulnerable people in the host population.

"UNHCR is again calling on the CAR government to do more to ensure the safety of people and their property across the country, to avert further displacement and suffering." Edwards said.

UNHCR appealed for public and private donors to support this forgotten crisis. As of last Friday, its CAR operation was less than 30 percent funded, receiving only US$ 8 million of the $28.8 million required to help refugees in neighbouring countries.

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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.

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

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

This video was shot by one of our staff* using a mobile phone as they helped refugees who had crossed the river to safety.
Central African Republic: Torn CommunitiesPlay video

Central African Republic: Torn Communities

For more than a year, inter-communal strife has displaced tens of thousands of people in the Central African Republic. But amid the violence, efforts are being made to promote reconciliation.