|© UNICEF/HQ08-0590/ Holtz|
|Girls sit together in class at a UNICEF-supported school in a camp for refugees from neighbouring Sudan, in the town of Sam Ouangja in the north-eastern province of Haute-Kotto, near the Sudan border.|
By Rebecca Bannor-Adae
KABO, Central African Republic, 19 June 2008 – Due to internal fighting in northern Central African Republic, as well as continued instability in the neighbouring countries of Chad and Sudan, thousands of displaced persons have fled their homes to seek safety and shelter at refugee camps.
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow recently visited one camp on the outskirts of Kabo, a small town in northern CAR. Since 2007, more than 4,400 people have passed through this official site where temporary shelters made of straw and plastic sheeting lie on a grassy plain.
“Amidst all this plastic sheeting – under each sheet – are human beings and every single one of them has endured terrible atrocities and losses,” said Ms. Farrow.
The Goodwill Ambassador walked through the site, speaking with numerous women and children along the way.
“This is not a place where anyone should be,” said Ms Farrow. “But while people are stranded here, too afraid to go home, we have to sustain them.”
‘It’s not home’
Waves of people have come through this site outside Kabo looking for safety. Some have already returned to their villages, but the majority are too afraid to go home.
“We cannot go home now, but I try not to think too much about it,” said Rachel Ngurainon, a young mother who was sitting outside two huts that she and her mother built upon their arrival four months ago. Her brother was killed when road bandits attacked their village.
“We have shelter and the World Food Programme gives us food, but look around – it’s not home,” she added.
|© UNICEF/HQ08-0590/ Holtz|
|UNICEF staff greet UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow and UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa Ester Guluma on the airstrip in the town of San Ouandja.|
Providing essential supplies
In north-eastern CAR, Ms. Farrow visited a refugee camp on the outskirts of Sam Ouandja. Hundreds of families fled here in May 2007, following attacks on their hometown of Daffaq in Darfur, Sudan.
“We had only the clothes we walked in with. We were hungry and many of us were sick,” said Mariam, a woman who fled to the camp. “The local people were welcoming, but they themselves don’t have much.”
Within a few weeks of the arrival of the first refugees, UNICEF set up a site for the displaced families with the help of several humanitarian partners. UNICEF provided blankets, kitchen sets, clothing, soap and jerry cans.
During the course of 2007, the conditions of the site greatly improved. The camp now features a clinic, a water system, adequate shelter and education.
“A lot of care has gone into sustaining the lives of these people,” said Ms. Farrow, standing in the clinic’s courtyard. “I must say it is one of the better refugee camps I’ve ever seen.”
Concerned for their safety
Although the conditions are better here than many other camps, it is still only a temporary shelter. The people long for their homes.
“Of course, we would prefer to go home – but not now,” said Mariam. “Where we come from is not safe.”
People are concerned about security, first and foremost. The Sudanese refugees fled from ongoing violence, but they now reside in yet another area of instability where the host population suffers greatly from years of armed conflict and resulting endemic poverty.
“We need to support the women and children through this very difficult time,” said Ms. Farrow.