Central African Republic

Mia Farrow visits torn community in the Central African Republic

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow recently visited families in the Central African Republic who have been forced to flee conflict. "In every child's face, there's all the hope and possibility of humanity. And you don't want to see that light go out," she said.  Download this video

 

By Gabrielle Menezes

BOSSANGOA, Central African Republic, 13 November 2013 – During her visit to the Central African Republic, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow stopped at one of the ‘ghost’ villages that line the road to the town of Bossangoa. She looked around and picked up a charred plate that lay among the ruins of a home that had been burned.

This wreckage of domestic life was a small reminder of the nearly 400,000 people who have now been displaced from their homes because of conflict.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/Central African Republic/2013/Menezes
Ms. Farrow holds a boy, who is among the displaced people now sheltering at Liberté School, in Bossangoa, Central African Republic. Conflict has left nearly 400,000 people displaced throughout the country.

In Bossangoa

In contrast to the empty villages, the town of Bossangoa was a hive of activity. Renewed violence in the northwest of the country has caused more than 40,000 people to flee their homes for the town.

“Your heart breaks, because the last thing that people want to do is leave their homes, leave their communities,” said Ms. Farrow, who walked around and talked to displaced people from the Muslim and Christian communities. “They flee in terror, they take – maybe – pots and pans and nothing else. And they arrive in a place they don’t want to be.” 

Some members of the Muslim community had fled to the Liberté School, where another makeshift camp has mushroomed. Classrooms are being used as shelter for displaced families. The walls are dark with the smoke of cooking fires, and school benches are lying outside in the grassy courtyard.  Education for the children here has been completely disrupted, and it will be a long time before they will be able to continue with their classes.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/Central African Republic/2013/Menezes
Ms. Farrow meets Oumarou, 13, and his brother Adovan, 10. With their mother, they spent weeks in the bush after fleeing an attack that killed their father and older brother, wounded Adovan – and destroyed their home.

The Bouba family

At Liberté School, Ms. Farrow met the Bouba family. Thirteen-year-old Oumarou and his 10-year-old brother Adovan had lived in the bush for several weeks with their mother before arriving at the site.

Home for the Bouba family is now a cramped corner of a classroom. They are almost entirely dependent on humanitarian aid. Oumarou told Ms. Farrow about how his family had gotten there.

“They arrived on Friday at 5 a.m. in my village,” he said. “We tried to escape, but they blocked us in our homes. They took my father and killed him because they said that he was the enemy. They burnt our house and threw his body into the fire.”

Adovan was seriously injured when a man hit him over the head with a machete as he tried to flee. A woman wrapped his head in a cloth and managed to staunch the bleeding.

“It’s so not what the world should be,” said Ms. Farrow. “In every child’s face, there’s all the hope and possibility of humanity, and you don’t want to see that light go out.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/Central African Republic/2013/Menezes
“Your heart breaks because the last thing that people want to do is leave their homes,” said Ms. Farrow, who saw abandoned villages near Bossangoa. “They flee in terror … and they arrive in a place they don’t want to be.”

“The needs here are so great”

Ms. Farrow also visited a health centre. Since its maternity clinic opened about one month ago, 19 babies have been born. She met one of the mothers and her newborn.

There was a long queue for free medical services, and several people said that they had become very ill by the time they arrived in the camp. Like the Boubas, many people had been living in the bush for several weeks.

UNICEF has appealed for another US$3 million to help give new arrivals the basics that they need to survive – such as plastic sheeting for shelter, and jerry cans for water. But many of the displaced persons who arrive in the camp daily have to make do with sharing rations and sharing shelter. The homes they left behind in their villages will remain empty, and the fields fallow, until some measure of security returns and they can go back to a normal life without fear.

“UNICEF is working on the ground, doing its best 24/7,” said Ms. Farrow. “But, really, the needs here are so great, they can’t do it alone.”


 

 

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