U.N. agencies and others are rushing humanitarian aid to the Central African Republic to help thousands of newly arrived Darfur refugees. The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, says the refugees are in desperate condition.
Helene Caux is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. From Geneva, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the Darfur refugees in the CAR.
“A month ago you had about 2,600 refugees from South Darfur, from Sudan, who had left their village…and crossed over the border to the Central African Republic. The reason they gave the UNHCR teams, who went to look for them and talk to them, is that they have been repeatedly attacked by armed men wearing military clothes and they’ve also been bombarded by airplanes and helicopters. So these people trekked for about 200 kilometers…to reach the CAR border…and they crossed over and found refuge on a site located about 80 kilometers away from the CAR-Sudanese border,” she says.
The refugees face hunger and lack basic supplies. “Their condition is not great and is basically worsening. People have been surviving first thanks to the generosity of the local population, who themselves are really poor. But in the past days it seems that they have been surviving mainly by eating mangoes and by getting water from the nearby creek. This water of course is not clean. So, as a result, a lot of the refugees, including a lot of children, have fallen ill with diarrhea. Other people also have malaria,” says Caux.
Humanitarian agencies are responding, but the location of the refugees, a town called Sam Ouandja, is remote and not easy to get to. It’s about 900 kilometers away from the capital Bangui. Nevertheless, a convoy of trucks is on the way bringing supplies, such as plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans, kitchen and water purification sets and some medical supplies. The World Food Program, Food and Agriculture Organization and UNICEF have also sent about 80 metric tons of food aid.
Caux says the refugees said they would not return to Darfur until security improves.